Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2010





Lisa Ampleman of Cincinnati, Ohio for Driving East, First Sunset after Daylight Savings Time; Create in me a clean heart; Trick of Light

Kimi Cunningham Grant of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania for How the Body Learns Loss; Topography of a Marriage; For Those Mourning

Éireann Lorsung of Beeston, Nottingham, England for England, or the continent I had in mind when I came here; With you; Aquí te pinte

Bruce Snider of San Francisco, California for Notes on the Harvest; Forecast; To Interstate 70



Paula Bohince of Plum, Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania Aubade; The Wild Garden

Rachel Dilworth of Gig Harbor, Washington for Spiral-bound; Beauty Supply Store Love Song; Post-Rain Pastoral

Tarfia Faizullah of Richmond, Virginia for Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine’s School for Girls; A Few Words for the Younger Self Seated at a Piano; Anatomy Model

Brieghan Gardner of Nottingham, New Hampshire for Mulberries; Work Interrupted by Blackbirds; Sleepwalk

Eric Leigh of San Francisco, California for Aria No 1; What Light Remains; The Company of Bleach and Strangers

Debbie Lim of Annandale, New South Wales, Australia for Meditation on a Whale’s Ear Bone; Bodies of Pompeii; How to Read Sapphires

Angie K. Mazakis of Bensenville, Illinois for Possibility

Claire McQuerry of Columbia, Missouri for Spring in Holy Cross Cemetery; Votive; Letter from Phoenix

Emily Louise Smith of Wilmington, North Carolina for Fields, Drifting Apart; The Day My Grief Up And Quit

Jennifer K. Sweeney of Kalamazoo, Michigan for Barn Owls; Forty Weeks; The Nightbird's Apprentice

Mark Wagenaar of Salt Lake City, Utah for Gospel of Wild Grapes & Empty Rooms; Portrait of the Artist with Dante; Dryspell



Scott Cameron of Rexburg, Idaho for Gucci Tie in a Sudden Snowstorm; Dvorak’s Symphony no.9 in Idaho

Dan Disney of Seoul, South Korea for Still Life; Smalltown études; Man with missing antithesis

Ari Finkelstein of Los Angeles, California for For an Old Gull; Shelley’s Ghost; The Conchologist

Jules Gibbs of Syracuse, New York for Brute Dictation; The Middle Distance; To the Imaginary

Brian Patrick Heston of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Fire Hydrant; Barb and Jimmy; News from the Porch

Maria Hummel of San Francisco, California for Carousel, Ten Days after his Third Transfusion; Children’s Ward (I); Children’s Ward (II)

Charles Jensen of Silver Spring, Maryland for Intensive Care Unit; What Love Is; Walking Through Kihei After Dinner

Andrew Krewer of Tucson, Arizona for Dance in the Saguaro Palace; Ruby-Throats; Pondlife

Nina Lindsay of Oakland, California for Whatever; This morning; Call

Susan L. Miller of Brooklyn, New York for The field before Secausus

Rebecca Parson of Baltimore, Maryland for Burning Season; Poem For My Sister; Graveyard Calisthenics

Rachel Richardson of Greensboro, North Carolina for Little Exercise; Ultrasound; Heartbeat

Sarah Sousa of Ashfield, Massachusetts for Traveling North on Amtrak after Dark; The Field, The Field

Sarah Sweeney of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts for Feeding Time; Visiting the Gravesite; You Must Admit

Matthew Thorburn of Riverdale, New York for “A Field of Dry Grass”; Relic; Pylsur

Jessica Young of Ann Arbor, Michigan for By the time you have read this far; I am learning Spanish; Common Question: Does the sun make a noise?



Marla Alupoaicei of Frisco, Texas for Mapping the Interior; Equinox; Ode to Printemps

Melissa Barrett of Columbus, Ohio for Harvest; To a Sick Child; Boy Eating Ice

Lindsay Bernal of Washington DC for Blossom Road; Broken Shoe; Postcard from Mazunte

Charles Byrne of Urbana, Illinois for The skin in asking

Chuck Carlise of Houston, Texas for Psalm 15 as the Hurricane Takes the Roof; Where We Are Tonight; Slicing Cucumbers for Salad & the Knife Slips

Tom Christopher of Greensboro, North Carolina for Confession; Snapshot: Neighborhood Independence Day Parade; Failed Meditation, Peach Pit

Austin L. Church of Knoxville, Tennessee for Deer Hunting in Wartime; All Philosophy is Homesickness

Chanda Feldman of San Francisco, California for In the Mirror; 1976

Michael J. Grabell of Brooklyn, New York for The Woodpile; Nike Missile Base; A Flamingo Gives Advice to its Chicks

K. A. Hays of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for First Lesson

Wesley Holtermann of Berkeley, California for California; Milwaukee; Someone Had Been Throwing Weather Onto the City

Tess Jolly of Shoreham by Sea, West Sussex, England for Candle; The Brooms; Sunset

Jenn Koiter of Colorado Springs, Colorado for Color me Beautiful: Summer

Gary L. McDowell of Portage, Michigan for Accumulation; Selfish Couplets; On the Deck there's a Still Summer Evening

Christopher Nelson of Tucson, Arizona for Childhood; Childhood; Möbius Strip

Joanna Pearson of Baltimore, Maryland for October Inlet Wedding; The Moon Children; Hephaestus

Melissa Range of Columbia, Missouri for To a Swallowtail; In Praise of My Patella; Evangelion (1)

Michael Rutherglen of San Francisco, California for Santa Maria del Fiore; The Roman Snow; In Praise of Artifice


Honorable Mention

Martin Arnold of Greensboro, North Carolina for Itinerary a Sunset, Paycheck Surprise; Grace; The Ignoble Sublime

Kevin Bridge of Churchdown, Gloucester, England for The Window Pane

Brian Brodeur of Fairfax, Virginia for Rat Heaven; When Everyone I Loved was still Alive; The Rented House

Marie Gauthier of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts for Invocation to the Dream as Buoy; Little God & His Mother, Act I; Four Elements

Christopher DeWeese of Atlanta, Georgia for The Orchard; The Seastack; Stagecoach

Kristi Moos of Stockton, California for Learning with Asthma; Dream of my Deathbed

E. K. Mortenson of Stamford, Connecticut for No word for the Darkness; Raw; Tomorrow, Tonight

Matthew Nienow of Port Townsend, Washington for The End of the Folded Map; On the Day You Were Born; Corduroy Road

Jemila Spain of Eugene, Oregon for Reverie and Rain; It is Yours; Symphony at Sunrise

Brian Teare of San Francisco, California for Diagnosis; Illness; Convalescence

Catherine Theis of Chicago, Illinois for Heads or Tails; Pacific; Intimacy




Winning Poems

Marla Alupoaicei

Mapping the Interior


Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you.  Coldplay


An inexact geography: the road to your house

never had a name,

but I knew the way by heart.

Best we couldn't fathom

this would be our last year together,

kept living at the same trajectory, a leisurely latitude,

sharing breakfast on the beach, some kind of communion.

Opening the vein, tracing it through

the vestal terrain of the heart.

The inseparable linking of our two domains

like atoms of lead & gold.

Legend, cipher: what we found surprised us more

than the steady drip of the hospital clock,

the inevitable sting of its two black needles

Not yet

Not yet  

What we found undid us more

than the sound of your own heart

not beating. 

Go on ahead of me now.

Become the lamp for me to see by.

Me, charting life with a star-map of words;

you loved the world through the camera’s lens.

Now I’m the patron saint of lost things

scavenging the wreckage for amulets

of what has been, anything I can hold onto

like a diver combing the Titanic for crystal candlesticks,

a pocketwatch, a demitasse yawning on its gold-rimmed saucer.

By the bed, my favorite photo of us (we’re in half-shadow)

a paradox of light available & ambient.

The real test,

they say, is what you do with what you have left

so I enter the loss, let it envelop me, swallow me whole,

swim in its sea as we swam under the open sky

& slept under Albireo, the double star,

embroidered on night’s velvet blanket.

There’s nothing I’d fix

even if I could: 

I recreate myself with you

in perfect tense.

The light you’ve left behind

is the door I walk through.





What’s lost is nothing to what’s found,

and all the death that ever was,

set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup. 

Frederick Buechner


Shortened days send the signal

to let go, red maple

entrusting body & soul to the wind

Deciduous: bitterness spreads like a rumor

through the veined wings of a leaf

A body rife with longing,

an ache more primal than language

What does nature want

but our attention, participation, 


The eleven-pointed outline

like the imprint of a hand

Photosynthesis slows:

death contained in life

Separation, abscission

adjourn leaf from stem

Listen: a hush and rustle like applause,

your last, best gift

Every small thing

deserves a quiet place to rest

Your days, like ours,

numbered from the start 

A cupful of mulled wine, blushing like Eve,

fallen, flawed,

precipitously beautiful

Blemished & blessed

as all of us,

bravely mirroring heaven 



Ode to Printemps


Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child

that knows poems.  Rainer Maria Rilke


Praise be to the cheated winter, the hallelujah chorus

of tulips robed in satin. Let the empty shell

of the robin’s egg, a cup of whispered sky, remind you

of the self you’ve left behind. Cracked open & flown.

Listen to morning’s Symphonie Fantastique,

nature trilling the idée fixe.

For each thing lost (sheep, coin, or son)

find something sacred

cloistered in the corner of your life.

Walk barefoot on new grass

as it scorns gravity, persistent as hope.

Trust in arable land: it will open its book

of secrets. What lies fallow beneath,

the truth will grow & cover. Resurrect yourself

like a bud tossing off the graveclothes

& bursting from the branch. Bless the way

the Bradford pear, ornamental,

spreads its lace-blossom wings. Revel as each leaf

delights in photosynthesis, its own personal miracle.

Sit on your porch with the children & poets,

sipping a glassful of glory. Let the grackles

cackle their opus, rooting blue-black in a puddle.

Blessed be those who know their secret:

believe your song is beautiful

& sing it with all your might.



Lisa Ampleman

Driving East, First Sunset after Daylight Savings Time


for Rose Shapiro


Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,

              They are present yet unto my memory.

                             --John Donne


In our hemmed time, the moon floats

       above the treeline at 4:30,

while the sun blazes off the backs of semis,

       sets distant signs afire.

Florid, its setting fills the rearview mirror,

       small inset of day’s glory

in the darkening expanse of windshield.


I drive eastward, your namesake flower

       tossed carelessly in the backseat.

Instead of All Souls, today we celebrated

       you, who waved as you passed

my office door, who was only a quick

       passing shape to whom I called out

a hello and never said goodbye,

       who in your final days read

the Paradiso I’d borrowed and slid

       under your door as I moved out.


These things, far from my eyes, the day rusting,

       the night pulling darkness into itself.

Let our souls be spheres—those that gain light

       and are whirled, whole, into the dark sky,

those that leave so gradually

       they stain the sky with their passing.



Create in me a clean heart


My friend watches chicken embryos form their hearts:

a fleshy sheet folds over into a tube

that partitions into chambers and valves. 


Victor touches them with fine instruments

to find the lines of tension.

After all, we tear where we’re supposed to,


and surgeons who know this can find the right

seams for their blades. 

If I tear, I ignore it. If heartsore, pretend my torso


is tin-man hollow.  When I want a new heart,

I will the organ to pink up,

begin diastole, systole,


ventricular contraction.  The muscle’s

myocytes need no electricity

to start the cycle, after all.


But each time I attempt a new

variable (him; no, him)

it’s just pouring new wine


into an old wineskin, patching a piece

of new fabric onto old

and tearing both.  Victor puts another


carton of eggs into the incubator. 

Another sheet folds over.

I walk into a bar and sit down at your table.



Trick of Light


                       for my mother


I drove home through fog, the cloud-lowered, air-saturated

                       white, an eerie

            always-arriving in a clearing.  Strange world:


a fir became a small billboard.  A pile of hay bales, a tractor.

                       The trees,

            dark shapes, refused to be distinct.  But at the river,


when I expected the thickest mist, the air cleared,

                        and I could see

            downtown’s highrises glittering


where the clouds had come unseamed for a beam of light.

                       I know that you cannot

            see peripherally, that color has left your left eye’s


vision, the macaroni stirring from orange

                        to black-and-white,

       and back to orange.  The right has lost sight altogether.


Still, you’re not sure the doctor should break your septum,

                         remove the growth

             crowding out sight.  Optic nerve, pituitary,


carotid artery, gray matter:  how close everything is.

                       I want to believe

            in his micro-instruments, to tell you


that at sunrise, there’s a moment when color comes back,

                         the grass green again

            instead of gray, that tree suddenly “oak,”


each leaf’s lobes forming the image of a tree, too,

                        the ground a gritty carpet

            of acorn shells.  That it’s all the same as it was.



Melissa Barrett



We chose to meet somewhere neutral: whole

angel oaks and puckered birches, surrounding pine

wearing skirts of low branches.

Ten months later, you’re reluctant, still thinking

what to say. We walk hundreds of hectares,

the dirt path horseshoeing a beet field just planted

and we talk: quietly, capably—I’m spouting

Carolyn Heilbrun, how she knew her end well enough

to walk right into it. Like Mishima and the sword,

you add, with three feet steeping between us.

At noon it was weather to paint houses in; now

the thunderheads are portly, unapologetic—

We can smell the rain, feel our shoulders sag

under the weight of it. Shoots of birdsfoot trefoil

tinge the copse and shudder, the wind laces a carol

through the bracken, the sugar beets, the low field stares.

We keep pardoning each other, but with both hands

hidden. We keep leaving one thing unsaid.

To listen instead for the congeries of chapped

and dirtcrusted seeds, muscling through the soil

like spinning tops. This could be the season

of arrow-hearted meat, of soil streaking violet.

I nearly felt it that afternoon— October’s

juiced cossettes, rows of life so sweet they palpitate.



To a Sick Child


You may think it’s all gone

unnoticed: your life

a voice, feeble


beneath a chorus, that no one

can hear you from under

the floorboards of disease.


You’re here: saddled in a room

with walls so small and white

they fold down like little wings,


and the pleats of your little body

lay, soaking in the same

sun-starved clothes, hidden


between bedcovers. It’s true

we don’t know what you need.

We’ve forgotten


what childhood is. The sway

and candor of our moon, the great tilt

of the sky: completely feckless


for you, the one who grows

dizzy from staring.

But the pulse of the ocean


remains inside: teasing, lulling.

Close your eyes and read

the images there. These


are the true psalms, for in dreams

we unbolt the back door

and tiptoe out, to the far-off. 



Boy Eating Ice


It is his gift,

    at this age when his torso

is longest, twenty years old and cinching

       right up to

a ridge of skin, every bit of him


around a coil of crucial organs—

that locketed holy mesh  

home of pit and pat.


Once I bought dinner

for a boy who drank a large Sprite

     just to get to

                          the ice:

     his jaw never stopped.

When I see this boy’s

confident bank of teeth going,

     boulders          touch boulders.

  It’s convincing someone

  who never once believed.


     In fealty, he gives

up so much, just looking—

                a faunlet,

with winter apple eyes . . .

I told myself I loved him.

                     I was right.


                           I think

of the governance of woman

   when I see this boy before me, his ribs

stacking like plinths—

                                   of women

who learn to live in a circumference


of dime,  and boys

                      in whole fields of loosestrife.


  The wind lifts

       each piece of his hair

as it lifts each soft

                 sorghum head, a vault

   of sky widens:


      You’ve always wanted

                to be that effortless


But I’m slight, scurrying


      against granite, against

this stillborn November—


   My chest a well

of cold air: Go Go Go

                  it says . . .    


Even when I guide my own hand

I feel I’m pinning something down.



Lindsay Bernal

Blossom Road


I don't know why I pulled over, idling, just before Christmas,

        two months of snow and salt

plowed onto the shoulder, each squat rambler aglow, a life-size

        baby Jesus reborn in the DiPasquale's front yard,

why everything looked different, the way the woods you got

        lost in as a kid seem small

and disappointing when you return to them older, because I

        hadn’t been out of there that long,

less than a year, and as far as I could tell in the December blur,

beyond the slight expansion of the motherhouse infirmary, where

        the sick nuns, most of them retired teachers,

convalesced or passed, where I’d volunteered during study hall

changing bed pans and pouring Hawaiian punch into paper cups,

they hadn’t renovated the spired building I’d entered day after


my plaid jumper becoming more ironic with each curve.

How selfish it is after you leave a place to doubt that it could

        function without you.

That it all goes on was enough to make me crack, facing the


I’d stood around with my class, less than a hundred of us, in

        Easter white in another season,

singing or pretending to sing as the May queen and her

        court offered flowers to the stone Virgin,

and before I knew it, I was driving away again fast and far.



Broken Shoe


White dress, one foot bare, sky on the verge of rain

in a city where the sky seems always on the verge of rain,

Moscow or Glasgow or Rochester, New York,

with nothing to toss into the Genesee but this busted slingback,

my underwear wadded at the bottom of my bag.

On a hard walk centuries before Vivier invented stilettos,

Mary Hamilton broke the heel off her shoe.

That detail appears in most versions of the ballad

but not in the one sung by Baez,

who didn't bother with shoes at all for a long time 

and never smoked anything, never drank

her way into trouble or forgetting.

(In my head she's biting a Red Delicious,

slapping her Adam's apple to improve her vibrato.)

Everything went wrong for her, for Mary Hamilton, I mean.

And courtship is the worst: one minute you’re splitting

steak and frites, falling for the oldest tricks in the book,

and the next, you're back at his place flat on the floor,

knowing that the night will amount only to morning.



Postcard from Mazunte


Somehow Peter, Paul, and Mary are still singing.

Thousands of miles by car, not rail,

with a brand new timing belt, a tent, luck—

though we found worms in the orange juice.

Though for eight days straight

we’ve been unable to eat.

This is not a landscape I know:

loud, unidentifiable birds, the coast

giving rise to mountains, our palapa peppered

with hyacinth. Here, when he touches me,

I hear the Pacific crash, as precious as that is.

There's no disembodiment: I am my hips

moving, my chest caving in;

that strange sound I make is mine.

When I see myself in his eyes,

when the sun reaches a certain height—

No, I can’t go home this a-way. This a-way.

This far away from grief.



Paula Bohince

Pennsylvania Aubade


The spider drowses in her diamonds.

This is her kempt home, the morning’s doorway

through which God enters and shines.


The ecstatic jay tambourines from the maple,

red leaves rising in ovation.


Yesterday’s supper sings

in the trough to the piglets, whose tails

are the essence of happiness. 


Our gray woods turn pink, then amber.


All of my beloveds are here, even the ones

who must return as the gleam

on an apple lifted to the pony’s teeth


or as mothering wind ruffling the heads

of buttercups sprawled in the field.


A spring erupts, giggling like a grandmother

recalling some lost story.  A quartet of wrens

bathe, mid-air, in that magical water.


The possum crosses the still-empty

road, sleepy for home, her children padding

behind, closing their sun-dazzled eyes.



The Wild Garden


Because I cannot bear to distinguish between

flower and weed,

myself having felt so often

neither beautiful nor chosen, but want

to live, urgently,

as the weed does.


For I love the weed’s persistence,

its mighty green, and how it will sometimes flower

and frill, despite itself,

and how these flourishes are miraculous.


When there are holes

in the rabbit-proof fence, I leave them

un-mended, inviting in

the hungry.


I salt the earth

for deer who roam the garden under moonlight,

their ragged coats turning silver.


The pumpkin’s curling stems hold close

the anonymous, and the tomatoes

go un-staked, their blushing cheeks pressed low

to earth in the position

of worship.


I cultivate myself every day, bowing down

not to pluck, but to praise.



Charles Byrne

This poem will be posted when the author provides it.


Scott Cameron

Gucci Tie in a Sudden Snowstorm


My tie had never imagined snow in Eastern Idaho

except in white silk, like I had never imagined Italy

except in my Italian Uncle and his taste for expensive silk


and in my father’s stories of a summer abroad

where Italy became forever Florence and always Dolomites,

rising again and again in ragged geometry.


The flakes flew large as bumblebees, erratic as bumblebees

falling, taking to lazy flight, then harsh

and horizontal against my tie, against my face.


The snow clinging to me, to my tie, like a thinly remembered

story of my father standing in the back of a manure truck

winding its way up narrow lanes to Verbicaro,


where he with a classmate would visit her relatives—

they would think, crouched around a small table clutching wine,

that he was a fiancé; his Italian too shaky, a failure to disprove.


Sometimes my back aches with the night he spent

on a cold couch, the fire burned down. The sky at dawn crisp

and blue as the snow-framed juniper berries I am walking by.


How could an Italian designer know such storms in Idaho?

The abstracted bridle and stirrup pattern so extravagantly Gucci

become snow-capped basilicas and windowed blue sky?


The basilicas I have half surmised from pictures,

the Italian skies, a broken blue, my mind has failed to disprove.

The answer is white thread, hidden wires, unintended innuendo.



Dvorak’s Symphony no. 9 in Idaho


Rexburg in winter’s craw demands little

imagination, just gray on gray. Not even the wit

of a paint chip—enigma gray,

                            serious gray,

                                    Hungarian November.


And so I wonder if Dvorak,

growing up in Hungary, summering once in Iowa

could imagine four months of ice-packed streets in Idaho,

and an old stone hall cluttered with people unused to

but craving symphony.


He was groomed to be a butcher after all; he knew

blood and the grinding of joints when you sever them.

But could such quotidian conjure a red-haired, high school bassoonist


or perhaps a mother, once a small-town violin virtuoso

now waking in the middle of the night to the practiced pizzicato

of Dvorak’s symphonic New World that she believes hides a child’s whimpers.


The ice, the gray, the musicians divided between music

and counting the rhythms of each day,

but inside the stone hall the rollicking

spring set in E minor

that Rexburg aches for amidst too much winter.


Dvorak’s violins knifing through this work, drums

thudding in the rise and fall of cleaver

on slate butcher block. And then,

 a strange knocking like 19th century séances,

calling the dead to speak in code;


not quite part of the composing,

certainly not coming from the stage

but singing in cold, thudding pain—

an old man has fallen at the back of the hall.

As people fumble to contain the body’s

compulsive, irreverent knocking,


we wonder if we should run to some rescue

because this is the New World, 

or if decorum requires stillness horrified.


We don’t know if somehow in Iowa

or in the cold smell of slaughtered animals, Dvorak heard this man’s seizure


            ages away; his body, an instrument, beating            

                               uncontrollably in time. 



Chuck Carlise

Psalm 15 as the Hurricane Takes the Roof


When the storm reaches you

    with wings & falling stones – when it passes

         your borrowed room – rips shingles from the roof – presses

its eye to the attic boards; when mist rises

    from foothills for days, til the trees themselves – the live-oak

         & river birch – slowly disappear – & the distant rumble


of thunder & wind is indistinguishable from earthgrowl

    subterranean, the mountain come back to rebuild itself;

         when you stand, then, your pockets full of nails, to trace

small circles in the splinters & dust –

    the scrape & sputter of living through – & even your name

         clings like a toddler, like a tune you can’t shake:  wait.


The storm will cycle back (it always does) –

    it is not meant as metaphor but event – a thing

         happening.  You’ll nail cardboard to the windows,

blankets to the cardboard.  You’ll stock candles,

    water, move lamps into closets, listen for the wind.

         It won’t help.  & when the ceiling collapses, it won’t


even make sense at first.  What now?

    Learn to live on the edges, you think,

         the periphery – to wake & stand, to move

through the room – learn to think nothing

    of the room at all – to not see it – the pools

         of damp wood, the cost – it’s not so bad.  It’s not so bad.


Whose words are these, falling

    to the floor like light?  Whose name?

         Whose breath on the drop-rotting plaster?

There is not space here for anger –

    to pull the lamps from their closets –

         no, it’s time to wake, to stand, to move through the room.



Where We Are Tonight


Tonight we broke into the theater hall after hours -

             pulled one another through half-open windows,

felt our way down stuffy stone corridors,

                                        hands held in grinning silence.

You knelt in my lap when we reached the auditorium,

     knees & shins straddling my thighs in the loft of balcony seats,

     your hands tracing my cheek

                         as if learning me through fingertips,

but careful, quiet as space,

our soft voices resonating through these spires & empty aisles – 

            a history of echoed ovations & discreet whispers,

     forgotten but not quite gone,

            breathing still in a swell of words & wandering drafts.

                                                      (You heard them too.)


& this hall - black-stone walls & stained glass windows,

     high gothic ceilings wrapping us in residual hush

            of humid breath & dust-covered shadow,

     darkened stage below dotted with colored moonlight

     like flowers flung at ovation’s end,

                 swept & gathered before the night is even over.


There is an ache in the bones, a soft tremble

in my fingers & wrists in places as timeless as this -

     a sudden startling sense of how easily our lives distill

                             into the moments we’ll define them by;

     how they funnel us down into scenes of such clarity,

                 that it seems everything that has ever happened      

                                                                  came together

                 to bring us to this point

         (which, of course, it has).


You lifted my head to face you -

     a pale shadow glowing against the darkness.


All night we trade on this -

this tangle of perpetual & transitory –

            till we can almost ignore the coming curtain call,

wait instead in suspension of belief

            for the warm murmur of shuffling feet & creaking chairs –

     the sad confusion of exits –

& emerge, amazed, wide-eyed, breathless,

                                                     gathering roses.



Slicing Cucumbers for Salad

& the Knife Slips


                        Longing we say, because desire

                        is full of endless distances.

                                     --Robert Hass


This is a recollection, even as it’s happening;

these wordless flashes, layering on one another

before my mind can sort them,

     stuttered echoes – repeating,

     rephrasing themselves one at a time:

                first a hidden gush of water channeling

                                         through kitchen pipes;

       window-light of July afternoon glaring

                                         off the pitted wood table;

   now her voice, almost a question “Oh!?”

   as the knife slips;

            then my fumbling with the white box,

   her hand held up for me,

                         finger out like a child waiting for her mother to kiss it away.


There is distance in this awareness, this naming of events,

                                                           a need for safety,

& for an instant I want nothing more than to know

how the scene will end,

     if she is silently fitting these moments together as well –

watching us move toward something,

            the way I watched her reach for

            the plastic cutting board just seconds ago –

or further, the way a story is told:  how scene draws

                                                               to scene,

            & the mind fills in all the blank, undramatic details –

not the clarity of photos in an album

                                but the empty space between them –

we are living in that space,

blindly creeping, even now, toward some indecipherable end,

                        that will someday feel so natural

                        we won’t even think to wonder

who we might have become without it.


We are both still staring at the now-covered wound,

                & I am cradling her hand in my palm.

Water has begun to pool at the vegetable shavings in the drain.

I almost look up to her face, but hesitate,

                                                               & let go instead.



Tom Christopher 



I have left you again

                               to sleep in sweat-damped

sheets, the streetlight’s window-filtered glow,

knowing from the sudden press

                                              and claw

of fingers, a breath caught short, that some

nightmare-dressed memory

                                         whispers a knife

against your throat. As you burrow and curl

in defense, I console

                               myself imagining it

will pass by dawn, leaving

                                       little evidence

of the visit—fitful sleep preferred to none.


            this is true. Yet also my complicit

weakness: fearing the dumb fumble

for words as you thrust back, gasping,

into this watery dark,

                                my cold wonder,

as you shudder against me, if in that minute

before you wake,

                          the devil wears my voice.



Snapshot: Neighborhood Independence Day Parade


Star spangled sunglasses,

                                       blue jeans,

T-shirts proudly flying the Old Glory,

you wore what the crowd wanted

                                                 to feel,

a thrill bright and harmless as a sparkler.

Like sitcom sweethearts,

                                     you and your best

friend waved among the miniature classic

cars, the bikini clad

                             American Dream blowing

kisses from a truck bed. What a promise

you two made:

                       freckled cheeks, hair braids

glistening like a school teacher’s apple

or a coin flipped

                        into a wishing well.

And for you, three miles of release,

nothing but the asphalt’s heat


through you like the marching band’s

brassy crescendo, to watch your parents


           into distance, indistinct figures

calling from an abandoned shore, a faraway


            trying not to be forgotten.



Failed Meditation, Peach Pit


It’s a practice of release—the world, for a moment,

not burning on its little stake—

                                              to look at the peach pit

and not see

                  the sanguine shade of a day-old scab

or the woody form resembling a hump of rumpled

bedclothes, to not even feel the word peach pit


             on the mind’s inner tongue, and perceive

instead only a simple object

                                          closed within its existence,

locking the half-cracked door of attachment

which swings freely

                             into the evenings and alleyways

of desire. There was a guy I once knew in high school

who thought peaches were the sexiest of foods:

the soft sag

                  of the fruit in your palm, blonde fuzz

and blush, the center’s crenellation

                                                    like the skin’s

secret folds. Peach pit, he believed, pronounced

our most beautiful English sound. How easily

we teased him, and how patiently

                                                  he rinsed away

Dr. Peaches marker-scrawled on his football jersey

or scraped the sun-baked splatter from his truck’s

windshield. He left

                            after graduation for Wyoming,

hired on as a ranch hand. Years later, I learned how

his mother beat him regularly for a million capricious

reasons and also

                          how a girlfriend once described

their months together as the safest she has ever felt,

like falling asleep on a Saturday afternoon.

                                                               It’s strange

to miss someone you never really knew, half a lifetime

away. It feels false,

                              like missing a landscape you have

never walked. Yet it grips me, at times, sudden

and violent as the world’s hard,

                                               indivisible joys.

Switch grass and big bluestem. Soft nap

                                                            of a horse’s

ear. Peach pit, whispered to an endless field and sky.



Austin Church

Deer Hunting in Wartime


Every bird’s song turns a key

in the sky. A lone crow sows eulogy.

Blue jay’s cry stings the air like a needle.


Waves of starlings turn in on themselves,

go back the way they came. Little brown jobs

flit from twig to twig, tilt tiny heads

to listen to the earth groan.


A mother dreading a telephone call,

the wind picks up brown leaves, puts them

down, doesn’t know what to do with itself.


Encased in ice, trees keep vigil.

Silence broadcasts every falling leaf.


A buck with twin steeples noses cold dirt

below me. I don’t raise my rifle.

I grieve my part in this fracas

of bloodshed and metal.


I pray a psalm to hasten

that great stasis of blood.


Let the bullets float stupidly like

stunned fish. Let detonators sputter

and fail. Let flightless vultures eat

each other, leaving bones of peace.


May hard, dark children remember how

to play. May the stupid slouching wreck

of human vengeance walk its own plank.


May doublespeak metaphors deployed

to bury truth blow their cover, get tongue

-tied, flummoxed, rust alongside hectares

of silent machinery.


Give me eyes to sing the unseen:

every yellow tare and cedar,

every frozen bush, is burning.



All Philosophy is Homesickness


“All philosophy is homesickness,”

Novalis wrote. We pine for a place

we've never seen,


unambiguous belonging.


Leaves of the autumn-sick oak

gather the last yellow of this year’s sun.

That Japanese maple is wet with light,

its crooked lines a blood red


too pure for any language.


Were we to dwell here and now

in these revelations of rocks,

clichés of momentary grandeur,

would we swell or shrink?


Family of raccoons living in the storm

sewer. Neighborhood cat’s cryptic path.


Were we to plant ourselves in

such ordinary-ness,

ineffable pomp of life,

would we regain our sight?


Slug’s thread of slime on the sidewalk,

two D’Anjou pears on the table,

smell of coffee in the cold house,

tin-singing and cessation of rain.


Jesus loved such nothings

and gave himself to them,


to the maw and metal teeth

of philosophy and hope.

We beg for the same alien


grace of naming here our homeland.



Rachel Dilworth



For My Niece Elena, Entering the Sixth Grade


Since in two days, she must embrace the middle

school moil of lockers, boys liked, periods

hustled to with pack of outsized tomes

slung over one shoulder, long lunchtables,

and tests in every last thing—even the flute

she’s only begun—we’re festooning notebooks.


No Trapper Keeper or Pee-Chee doodle art

for this.  We want something photographic.

Today, we sense, is for affixing beauties

already in evidence, for making record. 

Today we are, blessedly, eleven,

and it is good to be among the stars


of last year’s Audubon calendar.  We cut

carefully, no feather marred, and read

their names aloud to hear in each the praise:

ruby-throated, western, belted, American,

black-capped, northern, song, common, crowned.

Her own name hymns “Nana’s mother,” gone before


we two could love her—open-palmed, sound

in her God, industrious, tender, fine.

My name, “lamb.”  I plant hummingbird children

in a nest that my biologist mom has taught me

is lichen on my cover; my niece, a chickadee,

house wren, and warbler into conversation


on hers.  Also, a two-headed turtle rescued

from a National Geographic discard.  (I take,

from same, the unnamed bay shadowed in mulberry

and ink with one dock and a smatter of boats

coming or going, kindled like wicks.)  She laughs,

charmed to happen on a cache of gold monkeys


enfolding each other, and I think of last week—

my sister and I teaching her to watch rockfields

for the scutter and small business of pikas

on Mt. Rainier (all 14,000 vertical

feet of which my sister has climbed), and the lupine

for rimples of the butterflies called Blues.


I ask, will her subject tab read “Science” or “Social

Studies,” as I slip “Poetry” into my own. 

“I’m going to use my book for stories,” purls

back the resolution.  “But they’re hard to start.” 

Sweetheart, oh sweetheart. 

She hands me a page on which she’s created


a frontispiece to paste into my book:

my name in fluted columns of kaleidoscope color

underpinned with the charge, “Take chances, make mistakes.” 

For hers, I fashion the lift of creamy petals in a field of green. 

Last touch, we need a first-page word.  She carols

through scores of possibles, lands on “Discover.”


But watching her turn amidst the flock of birds

and glowing boats and wide-eyed pages before us, I write

Alight.”  Approving, she packs her new schoolbag to go

and gives me a “See ya, Tia!” and an upturned cheek

on which I rest a long second as I kiss good luck

our ruby-throated, black-capped, American, song.



Beauty Supply Store Love Song


There was so much just plain good in the ceaseless eagerness

he talked with.  Words percolated and jumped from him

like a hot spring: spray conditioner, detangler, leave-in,

a retinue of suitables for the stylish woman.


Liver-spotted, smaller than it must once have been,

his hand grazed along the shelves that held them

brand by brand: the illustrious, the pretentious,

the frivolous and expensive aristocratic

families of products, the lineage from each king-size.


You’d expect he would be cowed by their fancy names

and packaging; made to seem misplaced and puttery

That should’ve been what I found unsettling.  But

it was the way he held forth on the best of them—a long-time

friend, trying to draw me in with their secrets.


It was all that knowledge offered like a hand in welcome,

the rain of samples, and the way he lost track of my question

as he moved, reverently, through his heroic catalogue:

Paul Mitchell, Abba, Biolage, Lange,

Aveda, Nexus, KMS, Sebastian.


It was the fact I knew no one would let him do this

soon again; that when I left, he would sit at the desk

in silence, tinkering with a crossword or capping pens

until someone maybe wandered in for bobby pins.


Whole-hearted as a child, his love of beauty grew

between us till it became impossible

not to need a prettier picture

for his store of expertise, not to leave

reinforced by the enhancements he championed

for me—his intense shine, his all-day hold.



Post-Rain Pastoral


The animals have flowered from the ark

into local fields again.  Inebriate

with sun, replete bodies of cattlestock

plump in chummy batches on the rangeland

and baby black lambs fall crazy in love with legs.

Scrub jays glint with new-scrubbed blue

from clumps of oleander, and the warm skins of horses

brighten into mirrors.  No land has ever been

so solidly new, nor I more animal

myself: the shocked calf licked clean from her sac,

chick or salamander cracked blinking from her egg,

stunned with the luck of being born

and the warm, abundant feast of light.



Dan Disney

Still Life


i.m. Gianluca Lena


Swallows are curving the stained weather

above worn-faced Caesars, who sweep marble arms through

the days and nights

beyond us. At the ruined Forum, the strada

ploughed by Mussolini for his own

idea of omnipresence.

Over unreal estates, CCTV fields of bitumen,

teenage low-grade irritants are squawking, 3D cut-outs skateboarding

across an expanse

of interesting wallpaper. Is this

the shape of us? Always stricken, homeless amid monuments,

shambling slowly as those who have travelled

such little distance

that everything seems ordinary.


                                                                 (Rome, 2009)



Smalltown études


Omeo Highway, Great Dividing Range


i. Bairnsdale

The sky is sparrow-filled granite, this open country

veneered with estates sudden as dark water rising. Main Street

              clusters with pensioners

combing back their hair in cafeterias

and blinking over cappuccino.

              At the Rotunda auctioneers admire bank windows, reflective

as cattletrucks

rattling empty toward mountains.

              Cicada husks cling to fencelines in pre-prefab paddocks.

Mares buck the abattoir scent curling at town’s edge, where hammerfall and lo-ing

flattens into the null.


ii. Bruthen

Like caravans at a crossroads, the cows stand

monolithic in this quasi-primal scenery: chewing

at the floodplain trees, crooked beside roadhouses leaned back from the horizon.


iii. Ensay

The town clenched around its highway

and roadkill, cars tilting through the disequilibrium unstopping.

Chainsaws grind at scrublines like incisors.

Somewhere (as trees fall) the ministrations of old radio

and in the dimly-lit kitchens of farmer widows

weekly appellations

of panic: the fire brigade’s practice an occult minuet

in these dry-mouthed hills.

Rabbits thump the blind underground

and eels slide up pussy-willow riverbeds. In this garden of delights

it’s the unquiet that is a landmark, unspoken

and encircling

as the sentences of strange ghosts.


iv. Swifts Creek

The creek bends over stone, a snake unskinning itself. Hats gather

at the garage and trucks slough past

unloading timber at the mill. A bus draws in to school, freckled generations

at its windows. Up the road, the cemetery

is carved with phonebook names.


v. Omeo

These mountains locked as a grave.

Sheep stare through seasons. Workdogs howl on chains

filling ringbarked afternoons. Weather speculations

drawl out the half-open windows of slowed cars

in town for groceries.

Locals thumb their belt hoops. A crow scours the hills. Lawnmowers are droning

orchestrations of dominion.


vi. Benambra

The sky almost a void, Mount Kosciusko its distant steeple.

In the cleared valleys boxwood stumps gnarl

amid haystacks inert as tractors rusting on blocks.

The weatherboards here, scant and haunted

in the bawling frames of wind, scatter out darker altitudes

where hair-trigger farmers stark with short answers lope across taut daylight.

Quince and crab apple rot in dropped circles

while scarecrows mute as döppelganger survey the wild churchyard

long empty of its song.



Man with missing antithesis


. . . man is a centaur, a tangle of flesh and mind, divine inspiration and dust.

Primo Levi The Periodic Table


There will be mystagogues

yes and lawns mowed on weekends. There will be

a millionth bee . . . yes and a trillionth.

              And dust

and quiet desperation, multiplicity (tangled)

and soon there will be birds

with small motors (but no lightning

              from the fingertips). Verily, yes, Loris one day will be happy

as Larry.

There will be daily papers. Yes they may

read all about it.

              Flux and dark quanta

and yes

there will be sneezing

(small faux orgasm of the proboscis).

              There will be

coincidental hysteria, cries of huzzah! They will be prone

to slipping from their minds.

Yes to tennis. Yes to dictionaries. Yes to monkey wrenches.

              There will be isting

and also existing under and upon the ground.

Studies will be done

on the vagaries of monsters

              (there will be shadows the size of a crack in their days).

They will nuzzle at night

they will make pets of one another.

Here shall begin

              the vast agglomerations of et cetera.



Tarfia Faizullah

Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine's School for Girls


        "If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have

        called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow."

                       -Orhan Pamuk, Snow


Before the hanging cross, the girls

take turns standing at attention before

us with eyes closed or hands clasped,


headbands bright green or bangles

yellow, glints that fill the silence like

falling snow. They recite poems they


have carried in their mouths for days,

and my desire to go back, to be one

among these slender, long-haired girls


is a thistle, sharp and twisting at my

side. The words psalm, blessing, lord,

rise in me like bees heavy with pollen,


and the teenager I once was unzips

herself from me, emerges, a crocus

bristling through snow. She is back


in the old chapel where the priest

again lifts into the air the Bible,

declaims about the kingdom of God,


gifts promised only the righteous—

the girl I was, heavy and slow in her

thick glasses, knew she would never


enter heaven, never be these young girls

singing, arms pale and slim as the white

birch whose branches, dappled with gold,


shade the stained glass window. In Pamuk's

novel, the headscarf girls in Eastern Turkey

hang themselves rather than go uncovered,


and still I desire that certainty of conviction,

even as the self beside me pulls on her hair,

sucks long strands of it deep into her mouth,


so I gather her in my arms, shake her, tell

her to listen, that the sky will always happen,

these branches. Sometimes, it causes me


to tremble, tremble, she sings beside these

girls who will grow into or away from their

bodies, and I know I must push the heavy


amber of her back inside me. Help me, Lord.

There are so many bodies inside this clumsy one.



A Few Words for the Younger Self Seated at the Piano


        -with lines from To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf


I sleep the morning away, the afternoon. You fly over the ocean to a country cratered with ships, rusted over, held at anchor. Our mother sends a box filled with crimson and violet material constellated by stars. I put it away.


Silent for many years, you turn your face to the window, and still no words hang in air sanded with saltwater. Do not lift your hands to play. Go scrub the dirt from your nails.


Someone turns your music on. Then off. I turn, half-awake. The light is long-stemmed, then gone. Night comes.


You transcribe in your journal, something has grown in me here, through the winters and summers, on staircases, in bedrooms. You want to give of yourself to anyone who asks. Squares of paper line your room, you line your lips before the mirror.


Do not lift your hands to play. Go wash your face. Someone strums a guitar. Bruised day. Imperfect day.


I am absent-minded. I become the window looking out from the kitchen to streets below. I am gathering you in my arms, that many yards of you.


One summer you are ocean water. You do not shower for months. Put your tongue to your own skin. Each night, long white shores of salt harden on your thighs. Do not lift your hands to play. Go comb your hair, smooth your dress. There will be hours before you can put out the light, lie suspended above the world.



Anatomy Model


Speeding across the flatlands

of West Texas, you are the girl


laid down again in the backseat

of the old Suburban—hours


your sister slept you watched

clouds cluster into familiar


gray mountains. Imagine that

the other side of the storm


your father crashed through was

a world where dead meant nothing


more than elsewhere: your lost

friend retrieved from cracks forked


in stone below a cliff, your sister's

heart restored, and between


their transparent fingertips

the fresh feather of a sparrow,


the thorned scrim of tumbleweed—

how badly you want to rest


here awhile, among trembling

fists of bluebonnets scoring


each hollow of brown grass

you pass on your way through


small town after small town,

each boasting the best barbecue,


football team, strong boys,

prettiest girls. The best of everything


is what I have always given

you, your father reminded


as you watched your sister

help him open chamber


after plastic chamber of a model

human heart, wanting to be the one


unclasping each metal hinge holding

red valve, blue ventricle, then hooked


aorta, every chiseled vein. Already

you are jotting down this memory, too.


Already it is an artifact it never was.

Already you are adding to it the purity


of this grass now rippling through

sudden rain. When he slipped that


stethoscope's blunt buds into your ears,

let you listen to the sounding of your


own heart, you didn't protest, and when

he tapped you there, said, If this is gone,


you will be gone too, you imagined

not fist but his cracked palm beating


inside you. Just outside Eden, Texas,

you are emerging from the other side


of this thick storm, and you are driving

past tall, thin windmills knifing wind


and knifing rain with long, white blades.

There is still no cleaving this loss you


will not name, like the porcelain doll

whose hair you once brushed over


and over until not a curl remained.



Chanda Feldman

Works currently withheld



Ari Finkelstein

For an Old Gull


I watched him hobble over sand

when all his friends were flying.


They went for fish, he came for me

and stood, his good eye on my book.


I had no bread to give him.


The one-eyed, weather-beaten gull

cracked his beak, then shuffled on.


Twice I saw him try to escape

the land, alone, and then return.


They say that gulls go out to sea to die.


The smooth-skinned sands are indifferent to it,

but the bearded waves express their care.


Whispering prayers, they genuflect,

whitecapped heads bent low.


This is the hymn for old gulls.


They must feel their wings faltering

as the spray leaps over them,


and then into their warped reflections

they fall with hardly a sound.



Shelley’s Ghost


A lone loon surfaces.

Its suffering is

an operatic warble.


I think of Shelley sailing into the storm.


Its throat-song

echoes after it’s gone.

The lake returns to marble.


I think of Shelley sailing into the storm.



The Conchologist


Full of seashells, my childhood home

echoes with the complaint of waves.


It sits in the mountains
ringed with purple pines.

But always, it has been full of seashells.


A nautilus on the fireplace.

A giant clam in the vestibule.

Our glass shelves are full of seashells

instead of photographs or books.


My father collects them. One summer

he returned from Fiji with a knapsack

full of seashells. I stole a cowrie.

It whispered in my ear, I stuffed

my toy and sock drawers full of seashells.


Like an eight-foot breaker

he started to roar, but I was in the yard,

it was bright and breezy, there were pebbles,

needles pricking my feet, the hiccup

of toads in long-necked reeds,

I was full of seashells, glazed with sun.


He’s still there, rolling through rooms,

two wives gone, three children,

and two glittering stories full of seashells.



Brieghan Gardner



A gift from a friend

at the farmers’ market,

a neighbor’s leftovers,

the fruit that nobody

grows on purpose anymore,


but whose tree still stands

on all the old farms, tall

and shady, brimming with birds

and the black-red berries that

drop as they ripen, stain

your fingers, your lips,


your teeth purple with bliss.

Sugar fattened on sun and soil,

moon and rain, all June’s festival

packed into one song.

They worry me:


too much sweetness

at once for any one person,

any one family, just as the earth

gives too much for any one

world to reabsorb. 


How to receive with grace:

it’s one of the first things taught

and the last we really learn. 


In the end, I gave

half of the berries away again,

unable to keep them all

without dying of gladness.



Work Interrupted by Blackbirds


On a morning when I absolutely

must grade about twenty papers,

they swarm the house, screeching,

fill the trees as much with

song as body, if not more.


Windows closed, I still

hear them coming,

go out to look and am

pummeled by acorns.

The birds rattle the oak,


swoop across the road to clothe

the naked trees around the pond,

black leaves rearranging themselves

on the branches. So I watch.


Each bird, as it flies off,

is replaced by another;

it takes about half an hour

for the whole flock


to pass. Thirty precious minutes,

and knowing how early

night comes in November,

it’s worth every one.





The body is wise.

It knows where it is,

remembers the exact

number of steps and

precise angle required

to reach the door,


length of the hall and

feel of just inaudible slack

in the third to last step down.

It knows, too, what it wants,

though you guess all day

and fail to feed it:


leaf, meat, sex, wine…

None of these, in the end,

matters, which is why you

find yourself, at three a.m.,

kneeling by the edge of the lake,

reaching one hand beneath the surface


and trailing it

across the water,

as you’ve done in the air

outside the car window,

as you would in the door

to another world.



Jules Gibbs

These poems will be posted when the author provides them.



Michael J. Grabell

The Woodpile


Few things linger twenty years later:

rolls of quarters in his nightstand drawer,

the polyester ties my mother can’t

give away, the woodpile – stacks of beech

bleached bone-grey after years

of oyster mushrooms and inattention,

a fitting home base when heroes had names

like Oil Can and Catfish and Mookie.

I drive home now after a long night and it

sits there, 50 or 60 hand-chopped logs

as if he knew there’d be many winters

without him. Tonight is cold

like the craters on the moon,

the shadows we never discover –

but I read in the paper we’ve launched

a lunar orbiter to map and measure

its surface. I stand in the dark grass

peeling the bark of a log

with my laborless hands,

with my fingers tracing its rings.



Nike Missile Base


After Sputnik, after Khrushchev

after Sing Sing and Bikini

after postwar homes had bunkers

and children desks,

the men came to a hill in Livingston

to hold vigil over the skyline

and test the atmosphere for war.

It was one point on the semicircle –

a last line of defense in case

the Russians attacked by air,

a locus to physicists who knew

about trajectory and energy,

the circumference of the earth

and at what velocity it revolved.

From Riker Hill, they could see

the distant flecks of energy,

New York a corona, always rising

with the uneasiness of a new day.

This is where we came years later

to feel invincible and irradiate

our frailties with Everclear.

This was after Gorbachev now

after glasnost and Chernobyl,

the abandoned barracks now

covered with graffiti to pay tribute

to some loner who halted

his trajectory with heroin.

They’d spray-painted over

“Death to Soviets”

so it said, “Death.   So be it.”

My friends and I passed the grain

alcohol playing never have I ever

and would you rather, taking dares,

telling truths that were lies.

Didi rode the rocket launcher

like a mechanical bull, swaying

on the rusty hinges and 190 proof

before sneaking into the radar room

with a guy she knew.

The rest of us got loaded

on the concrete pad.

From here, we felt the surface of things.

What had we lost yet

but what we hadn’t earned?

Confidence, hard choices, real fear

the knowledge of our vulnerabilities,

I guess, or am I trying too hard to make it

more than it was? It was stupid.

It was the end of a millennium.

We knew that we should celebrate.

We were ballistic with our hearts.

Perhaps we knew we’d never be

together again and that’s all it was.

It wasn’t until years later that

I knew the velocity of an object falling

in space, that I knew about intercepting

and about being intercepted,

the unpredictable inertia of loss,

that the heart hits the ground

at precisely 90 miles an hour.

This was before Putin before Chechnya.

This was before I thought I accepted

that atoms and nations and couples split

and found out that I didn’t

and that I still don’t.



A Flamingo Gives Advice to its Chicks


Dora Fedora, stop looking at your feet,

shut your beak, your legs are too weak.

You are flamingo, you are flamenco.

You are a phoenix rising from ashes.

So way up tall, girls, sur les pointes.

Flamingo cotillion, one-two-three.

Left leg up arabesque and tuck.

Dora Fedora, don’t wobble so much.

Wings outstretched like sails.

Look at those feathers, dreadful gules.

Some of you are eating too much algae.

Dora Fedora, keep that leg tucked.

This is curtsey, how you nab men.

Lift your leg, spread your wings.

Invite him to your aqua-boudoir.

You’ll get it when you’re older,

thank me for flair and gusto.

Dora Fedora, you have it all wrong.

You’re swaying hold your wing

now let me no you’re going to —

Poor Dora Fedora, Dora Fedora,

Is your eye bigger than your brain?

Know what happens when flamingos fail?

That’s right —  lawn ornaments,

shipped to Michigan, no less,

where there are no flamingos,

just gulls and loons.



Kimi Cunningham Grant

How the Body Learns Loss


When the man died,

     The woman’s pronouns refused shifting:


We have hibiscus in our flower beds.

     Come see us soon.


The man still spoke to her, she said, told her

     Don’t rush into anything.


When the two of them were first in love,

     He stole away from the base one night


And came drumming at the window,

     A surprise before he shipped out.


Then France.  The war on the far side of the Atlantic.

     Though I never knew them this way,


The man dizzy with passion and

     The woman stammering for the mail,


I like the thought of that young pair

     And their affections, the letters passed


Between them over sixteen months.

     And even how each day would have carried with it


The possibility of defeat.

     Would have demanded faith.


Consider how much transpires

     Between two people in sixty years.


How the body shakes off habits,

     Collects them, too,


Reluctantly and without awareness.

     How loss is a sleepy, heavy thing,


Cumbersome as new words, 

     Unhurried as letters crossing a wide sea.



Topography of a Marriage


Strange, I know, to feel selfish at a time like this,

To learn the news of two divorces—good friends

Who’ve parted ways with the men they loved once,

To map new territories, veer off in different

Norths and wests—and to feel mostly indignation,


But that same month you and I married,

We drove north to a wedding on the shore of a lake,

Witnessed the vows of friends there.

And other friends, too, married in Pennsylvania,

That day.  This past September, both wives left.


So here is my disappointment, pale gray, real as a fish.

I admit I feel betrayed over this.

And here, too, is the sureness of our vulnerability,

Disquieting and cruel, like crows circling

A sparrow hawk.


We say that only the couple knows what goes on in a marriage.

That there are always two sides to every story.

But it’s more that there are two stories, turning,

Spinning away from each other.  Wanting different

Occasions, different characters, different endings.


Still, I want to know: how does a marriage come to this

Denouement—the packing of forks and old textbooks,

The moving out and on, the changing back of surnames? 

Is it something that can be sensed, spotted way out,

Like a late-August storm?  Or maybe it’s much more sudden.


These are the distressing truths: The body

Has its kingdom of wants. The heart

Can be treacherous as spring. 

There are beautiful and remarkable people all around us. 

And choices and things to give up. 


We are five years into this.

I believe you and believe in you still.

And the years will gutter past, untenable, too quick for us

To name.   One day, we will face real hardships

And real loss.  But each April, the forsythia spin bright yellow,

Just when you turn another year older,


And we remain one flesh.

This much I understand: there can be no drifting here,

Just the calculated steering of heart and body, both

Willful as ships, one no worse than the other. 

There is no charted route.  It’s the both of us,

Feeling our way through the empire.



For Those Mourning


For those mourning,

It must have been like when Lazarus came faltering

From the tomb, white as magnolia and smelling of earth,

When the girl was found alive,

Ten miles from the bright shores

Of the Comoros. 

Disbelief could no longer be called disbelief;

Truth, no longer truth.


After all, the plane had gone down

So far from shore.

And there were no survivors.

And after all, how could she have endured

That unthinkable plunge to earth,

From so many miles up?  And so many hours

In the water.  And yet, the headlines said:

Girl plucked from the sea.


Imagine that young body waking:

The white hum of the hospital,

The weight of the sea still with her.

But think also of those who loved her,

Having to end their grief

With such suddenness, and such sureness,

As grief is not meant to end.


Like those two sisters in Bethany, who,

After the burial, the whole cobweb of regrets,

Had to rejoice, take hold

Of the flesh of one lost, and believe,

As if the heart could ever manage

Such adjustment.



K. A. Hays

First Lesson


Look closer. The buds

have flooded with the blue to come,

and the grass itches with promise—

each blade, shaken, slurs its note

beneath the thoughtless grinding

of the spheres

(or music, as it is said)—


yes, the weeds are sick-green with all that is to come.


Only listen to the wind-bent spruce,

the moan of trucks,

the spruce cones falling.

That is how much the world loves you.


But sit on stone steps. In sun.


Near lamps that do not yet need

to be lit. That is how much

you can be loved.


The wind on a soy field

does not love the soy,

but moves it,

such that a viewer might say,

How gentle.

You can be that viewer. You can try

to be the cloud that lets go its shadow

on a green hill.



Brian Heston

Fire Hydrant


Weeks of swelter, weeks without a breeze on Allison

Street. We came out from under our shadows. Cars

yawned by on cratered Chester Avenue. The too close

sun leaned in as though trying to hear our secrets: T’s

pops strung out and hustling on the corner, Lamont’s

kid sister blowing older guys in the alley behind her

house. Sherry, from across the street, asking me to

pull it out, wanting to see “what a white one looked like.”

The pigeons peered down from their too high roofs.

Old people sat on porches, mouths open to the heat

like lizards on rocks. Drunk Mr. Ant (the fired fireman)

had the wrench nobody else had. An ocean trapped

in a bottle rushed out. We leaped and danced in

the gutters, our glistening skins barely decipherable

in the water-lit sunlight. I found Sherry; she found

me. We pulled each other close, holding on tight,

the deluge all around unable to shove us apart.   



Barb and Jimmy


Yesterday, Jimmy told me that Barb's cancer was back.

He came over half-drunk with his face in his hands

asking why. Now, I’m by myself on this stoop. It’s hot,

night having fallen. The Chun kid is playing his violin

next door, the music a dream on the urban wind.

His father is a sour SOB, but he's a man like any other,

so I try not to hate him. Barb's cancer is spreading

through her like termites. I told Jimmy this comparison

over a bottle of Jim Beam. Both of us being carpenters,

we allowed it to make sense. When they found out,

Jimmy drove her home from Jefferson Hospital

in a downpour. It rained all day into the next. The drunker

we got, the more he brought that up, how he never

thought two fucks about the moon before but couldn't

think about anything but the lack of one that night.

Barb will be dead in a year or less. It's been decided.

Jimmy prays it isn't true. I hope his prayer is heard.

Isn't it about time that something listens? I don't know

what Jimmy will do. He met Barb in the tenth grade.

He's never been with anyone else. I'll go over and see

Jimmy and Barb before she gets too bad, and we can

have one of those nights together like we used to have,

them kissing and pawing at each other as I look on.

Jimmy will ask if I want another, and Barb will turn to me

and say, “It’s been three years since Miriam. Isn't it about

time you got off your rump and found some happiness?”

News from the Porch




Jean came over conniptioning about Hoot again. Gone

and knocked up some girl on Palmer. Third girl in two years?

I can't help but laugh because I guarantee that boy didn't

so much as get to second base before coming back from his first

tour, sun scorched and wavy haired. You remember him

from before? Couldn't speak a word around the girls, spending

all his time in his room playing video games. Jean was always

hollering about that, too. Wouldn't shut up about how lazy he was,

and how he might be a homo. “So what if he is,” I'd say. “Least

he ain't cutting school or pushing drugs.” She didn't like that.

When he graduated from Holy Redeemer and told her he was

joining the marines, she lit up brighter than Mr. McFadden's

house at Christmas. “You'll learn to be a real man,” she told him.

Jean always was a fool. Now, he's running around being as a real

a man as he can be. Showing off that long scar across his chest,

telling them girls how they are the dream that kept him going

through all those desert nights. “Well, at least you know

he's not homo.” She about spit when I told her that.




Frannie told me it was Angela Spataro. Her and Hoot scaled

the Palmer Cemetery fence one night and screwed behind the stone

angel of that private who froze at Valley Forge. Abimael Smith

was one of the first they buried there, interred when he was

seventeen. He went off with his father to meet the British

at Brandywine. When the colonials retreated, he never saw his

father again. The boy died early in the winter, and they couldn't

bury him until May. Can you imagine his mother dozing on her

porch, the bees whirring above the lilacs, finches chattering

in the elms; woken by the soldiers riding up in their pointy hats

and black boots? Probably looked like over-sized children with

their naked faces and squeaky voices. Apparently Abimael's

become a kind of rite of passage for these neighborhood

boys. Sweet talk a girl to his angel, see how far you can take

it. Father Martin had a meeting about it in the basement

at Holy Name, calling it “the most vile thing to happen to that long

deceased boy.” I for can think of several worse things to befall poor

Abimeal before he fell into the confines of his eternal sleep.




No, I don't put that TV on anymore. You try to ignore the blood

then feel stupid about worrying over who will win American Idol.

That doesn't make me superior, just exhausted, like the Romans

must have felt when they let the Christians take away their

gladiators. I try to stay busy in the garden. Trimming the roses

and keeping the bees happy. I pull the weeds, even though

I know they'll be there again in a few days. Sometimes, I'll put on

NPR, just to have something to listen to when I sit with a cold

one in the sun. There's the hum of hundreds of air conditioners

and kids calling to each other in the streets beyond the alley.

I think of Jerry. (Could it already be six years since they put him

away?) I haven't visited him in the state pen once. He was

a mischievous kid, but sweet. Always sweeping stoops for old

ladies. And that's how I want to remember him. On NPR,

they interviewed this man from Africa. Half the continent is at war.

They've taken to killing the mothers and carrying off the boys,

some no older than ten. They starve them awhile, then give

them AK 47s. Doesn't take much, does it, to turn them into death? 




Hoot may be something of a sperm bank, but at least he's not

coming back short an arm from Iraq like Ray, Alice's youngest.

Remember what a kidder he was? Now he just sits on his

stoop staring out at the houses and the people like he'd just

been dropped off from Mars. Alice's newest boyfriend fought

with him in the street the other day, had him by the throat,

the whole time Ray laughing and singing “The Battle Hymn

of the Marines.” You know how it goes: From the halls of

Montezuma/to the shores of Tripoli. Remember how he and Jerry

would stuff themselves to sickness with my homemade fudge?

I took some over to Alice after the fight, hoping it might help

bring Ray back a little. “I'm afraid he's going to kill himself

or somebody else,” she said to me. There's a willow in that cemetery,

it's leaves hanging down its trunk like a mess of wild hair. Hopefully,

Hoot had enough good sense to take the girl there afterwards.

I'll tell you, all we expect from these boys, everything we always

expected, it's a wonder they still manage to feel anything at all.



Wesley Holtermann



In the observation car, two women map out the architecture of knitting,

their pens scratching rough blueprints on the railroad napkins,

detailed plans for cities made of looped and hooked yarn.


The backyards, embroidered with sweet corn and summer squash, hang like curtains in the        windows,

their dull fences sliding past like billboards for a new life,

and the train hacks through the landscape, a knife plunged into a painting.


A man tells me he has mountain man in his bloodlines.

I keep reading my book.

His father had been killed by the Mojaves at a gas station in the desert, he says,

blood mixed with the Exxon-sign light.


This was when the digital cities were pixilating the hillsides

and when tangles of rebar and coarse beard steel

were accumulating with the hardcore kids in vacant lots.


Infrastructure forked and ran through the deep-carved valleys,

and the newer El Cerrito Indians fortified themselves

in the brambles and the stands of Eucalyptus,

rowed dead-tire canoes along the interstate’s exits.


It was that time in our history that I think no one quite remembers,

when old mailboxes were knocked off their wooden posts

by yelping kids with Schwinn Continentals and baseball bats.


The chronology of everything is jumbled and tossed after a while.

Former governors trade graves,

and the capitol rebuilds itself three miles over.


One thing I can say is that when the pioneers spilled over the mountains

and came ripping through the foliage,

well, they were probably pretty surprised

to see Oakland’s hills like loaves of rising bread.





The camera flash draped over Milwaukee’s number one citizen, the light hanging from the complex geology of his face.

He was like a statue, I remember her saying, or a mountain. Something immovable,

pressed into future textbooks next to etchings of The Great Thinkers.

Our cameras kept splashing him with light, and he kept looking past us. Like Magellan,

as if the municipal building behind us was some new frontier.

He mentioned squash tournaments with the committee

and long games of chess with former mayors, which he described like medieval history,

giving rich lineages to the kings and queens

and weaving plot through the pieces.

He looked older than I had imagined, and the light poured into the creases in his skin,

hardening, like a metal cast, into photographs.

And I’m not sure if I can explain how it felt

to be documenting the architecture of a minor historical figure’s face,

but if you have ever seen the plotted points of a bulldozer graphed in a chain-link fence

or watered a fern for weeks before realizing it’s fronds were made of cloth,

Then I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about.



Someone Had Been Throwing Weather Onto the City


Someone had been throwing weather onto the city.

Today it was hail, and all your old boyfriends

and the new one

had congregated in the Tattered Bible Room to wait for me.

They passed around 64 fl. oz. of water,

gulping and exhaling so roughly and exaggerated

that it made me, I think, visibly uncomfortable.


Most of them were there because I had mispronounced their names

On purpose, they said, but how could they prove it.

A trial was held by Michael Something

and Tall Guy Nos.1 and 2,


And it was only when I got up to speak

that I noticed you in the back

on the Pacific Bell payphone

and was horrified to find you with new bangs,

pearl earrings, smiling with teeth like glazed tile and your lips,

to find that you looked so beautiful again

in the damp, judicial light.



Maria Hummel


Ten Days after his Third Transfusion


I watch the horse

my son is riding

glide into gallop. Forward,


around: the proud, cratered

nose, serrated mane,

coat like black water.


Up! Down! my son calls, giddy,

holding the stake

driven through its body.



Children’s Ward (I)


In the bed beside yours, the child is so small

he could fit in a lady’s purse, a shoebox.

He smiles but doesn’t say anything at all.


You fall in love with him, wake up calling

Baby! Baby! pull our curtain back, knock

the reeds of his crib. The child is so small


he barely sees you, or the picture on the wall

you drew for him, of rain and broken robots.

He smiles but doesn’t say anything at all.


He’s one year old, cannot roll or crawl,

and floats alone all day while we play and talk.

The room around us is so small.


When his mother comes, she is beautiful,

her dark hair a sail, her face made of knots.

She smiles but doesn’t say anything at all


as we sit, holding our sons until they fall

asleep. Then she goes, the room closing like water

after a passing boat. The child is so small.

He smiles but doesn’t say anything at all.



Children’s Ward (II)


The tiny boy has a twin brother at home.

“Nothing the matter with him,” his mother says.

The brother walks and plays. This boy lies alone.


You are our only child. Yet somehow I know

what she means, what I almost pray:

you, too, have a twin, a brother at home


who never hurts, was not broken,

pierced by wires and bandaged again.

That boy walks and plays. He stays alone


while we live here. He grows cold

in those empty rooms, as the daylight fades.

I’m afraid he’s dying. But if we get home


he’ll be waiting in the dent on your pillow.

He’ll whisper in your ear, shake you awake

until you walk and play. It’s a lie we come alone


into this world. For every crooked bone

there’s a straight bone, for every face, another face;

and in this suffering place we now call home

is a boy who walks and plays while he lies alone.



Charles Jensen

Intensive Care Unit


I held the crepe skin of her hand

in my hand.  I told her I loved her.

The ventilator buzzed, hissed, and beeped.

The sky outside was gray.  It was November.


I held the crepe skin of her hand,

I told her it was snowing.  I told her it was cold.

I told her about my job, my apartment.

The ventilator buzzed, hissed, and beeped.


I held the crepe skin of her hand,

delicate as onion, and damp

As the ventilator buzzed, hissed, and beeped.

A young nurse removed her breathing tube.


The sky outside was gray.  It was getting dark.

She labored to breathe while

I held the crepe skin of her hand.

I told her it was cold.


I told her I loved her,

that it was November.

I told her it was snowing.

She labored to breathe while


her body buzzed and hissed and the sky

outside was getting dark.  It was

damp.  I held the gray sky in my hand.

It was cold.  It was November.  Her face


was getting dark.  I told her

I loved her.  I held her crepe hand

until her movement stopped.

I held it until dark.



What Love Is


When you found me, I

was an old house left untended.  I was


cluttered with autumn leaves,

my gutters clogged with rot.


I was leaning against a wind

that no longer blew.  It was


a matter of time before I fell.

I had nowhere else to go


but down.  The weight of gravity

is nothing like the weight of despair.


What did you do?  You

placed a warm hand against


my back.  The leaves caught fire.

And water streamed down my face.


I fought the urge to lean on you.

And when you stepped aside, I


was able to stand.  I was

near you, not because of you.


We’ve been neighbors like this

ever since.



Walking Through Kihei After Dinner


The island we’re on disappears between two hands

cupping it away from the light.


Streetlamps point into the night, sewing their glow

into velvet.  There are no stars.


I walk with you two by two on narrow cement.

We pop into shops open this late


and I touch postcards, bracelets, sculptures,

soaps.  I reach for your hand


and know that it is mine.  The bright false shine

from store windows barely


crosses the street.  Beyond I hear the ocean roar

against the sand,


my only proof that it exists.  We move away

from town, our feet


tattooed with night’s black ink until

we wade hip-height


out of light.  Hibiscus along the way gape,

their tongues stuck out


like children hoping for snow.  Their scent

distracts our breath—


for a moment, cloaked out of sight, you

completely vanish


until our hands brush and connect.  We are

not two when we


respect our bodies’ limitations.  To be

each other but still


ourselves.  To be one thing and not

our opposite.


                              for Beau



Tess Jolly



Lit in the mind-gap

between rosemary gathered

in mid-winter dusk

and fat slinking the pan,

between baskets of linen

slumped on the floor

and the old metal horse

bridled with clothes;

a small flame gasps,

wrestles to hold its form beneath

the breath blowing across it

and the thoughts clouding in,

as the heat that welds the wick

to a sharp eye flares,

and twisting columns

of blue and white dislodge

the tiny silver mouse-trap ball

chiming the music in.



The Brooms


Hair-lock, peppercorn, fishtail, glass

finger-nail, cradle-cap, seed …

my black-bristled drag charms


an intimate flurry of slivers and scraps

from the room’s outline – our human

residue of death, devotion, need -


and now she, in her bells and her beads

mimics me, observes the household work

of harnessing the fallen and dispersed


back into her body’s vortex, as daylight

pearls on her face, and on the full milk moon.





As light is lowered into the earth

holding by crimson threads to the rim

of heart-heavy hills,


floating on the bruised skin of the eye

when the weary lid descends;


I skim the dusk beyond this bloodshot glass

for words to wrap you in,

full gold moons to close your eyes


as an echo bears the husk

of a church bell’s toll -


remembering all that is lost

while naming this:


the life still yours to name.



Jenn Koiter

Color me Beautiful: Summer


I am a summer       mostly

                                          though I can wear aqua and apricot

              warm colors                  colors handed over to spring.

                                    So I am early summer         perhaps

specifically the summer after fifth grade

                             specifically the morning I rose early

                      for no reason            the one time

              I can remember          not tired          not wishing

       the day would wait up 

                                              or just go ahead without me.

                      The light was cool.            The mountains were

                                   just a little pink.                I remembered

my new toy, a glorified

               stick and string.      Dipped in watered-down dish soap

                                  and waved in the air, the Bubble Thing

                     promised giant bubbles          but hadn’t worked

                              the afternoon before.         The dry heat

punctured the soapy film before it could

                            round into anything.       But now

                                          in the early morning I made bubbles

                             half as big as me.        They rose

      wobbly over the fence

                                       into the neighbor’s yard,

                                           across the boulevard just beginning

                                                                        to busy itself.

Summer, dress me in lemon yellow     powder blue     dusty pink.

        I want to wear that

                                      one clear morning

                                               when something impossibly large

                    lifts into the air, and stretches

                                                        and bends in the soft light.



Note: Color Me Beautiful, published in 1980, claimed that women

would look their best dressed in one of four color palettes,

corresponding to the four seasons.



Andrew Krewer

Dance in the Saguaro Palace


Amongst the cactus ribs and blue palo verde

stir prismatic beetles––emerald siblings whose childhood

amusements spangle the breeze with beads


of laughter, which slowly rise, as if to evaporate from the barren

landscape of our recent loss.  But not yet evaporated––the beads still   


forming flocks of necklaces across the open indigo sky.


We have waited for this moment of everyday opulence

to guide us through the persistent yet shallow stabs

of the saguaro-studded mountain.  Now, the necklaces shift


into chandeliers, lighting our hike; a ballroom gifted,

someone commanding us to dance, the wrens providing music

as we slowly ascend the earthen palace hallway.


Something was born of drought here, from this vegetation

determined to survive.  The cactus ribs slowly fill with green,

the color spreading up the mountain toward us, not like fire,


but like a shared memory peeling back a cloud, revealing sun.





          in memory of Billie Lou Rivers


Perhaps the ruby-throats have returned

for her delicate glance through panes,

a look that once caught bubbles of air

as they rose through sugar waters.


At what residence have they arrived––

empty and filled with casseroles,

slaws, and cakes.  There is fresh fruit

from the orchard of my childhood.


Ruby-throats, you have watched her palms

guide mine in the kitchen

with their thin, papery knowledge

of hardship and nourishment.


I am surrounded by food and am not hungry.

The feeders are empty, little birds.  Sweet sparkles

on the stovetop.  Ice is necessary to bear this kind of heat.

Come to this window, drink from this hand.





When we swam to the bottom of the pond

and there were no fish, we grabbed


wet and leaking handfuls of dirt instead––cold

dripping off our elbows.


In science we had learned about diatoms

and their thin shells


of glass, how each body

of freshwater contains them.  Squinting


was useless; they were microscopic.

But in our handfuls of murk,


we found water bugs, weeds, dragonfly

wings.  At the edge


of the old dock, we left

the shining mud in the sunlight,


warmth rising around it like heat off

a backyard grill.  I don’t remember how long


it took for the wet clod

to crack dry.  I do remember


the dragonfly wings crumbled to iridescent

flakes, then a breeze we welcomed:


so much glistening in the air: so many

wings finally taking flight.



Eric Leigh

Aria No. 1


We come to with our beds dancing themselves

across the floor, the city shaking itself again,

trying to wake from another bad dream.


Then a chorus of car alarms and we rush to windows

where we watch each other mirror back a look

of disbelief.  We straighten picture frames,


sweep up the remains of the bric-a-brac pony

that rode too near the edge.  After disaster,

a city rebuilds on the bedrock of myth.


While brick and mortar give, legend holds

that right after the great quake swept this town

with a broom of fire, the great Caruso stood


at the blown-out window of his hotel suite and sang

over the ruins below.  Those in the street fed off

the comfort that can only be found in the sound


of someone else's voice.  But Caruso was just testing

himself, to see if he could still scale those notes. 

The truth is often nothing more than a consolation


prize. In the morning, we’ll surround ourselves

with words—foreshock, magnitude

but what we want is company. 


Do the close calls ever bring us any closer? 

The distance between us seems fixed, greater than

that of hypocenter to epicenter, the first act


to the fourth.  Even disaster has a dress rehearsal. 

In the meantime, we kill the lights, strike the set,

watch each other’s silhouettes, still we do not wave. 



What Light Remains


You come in the house

smelling of corn silk and the dirt-

skin of tomatoes.


Every thing sits up straight

in the last minutes of light,

the Bibb lettuce you bring


greener than green,

the Early Girls in your arms

a red that is all here and now. 


Even from across the room

we are together in ways

I never imagined:


I slice onions the same

wrong way my mother taught me

twenty years ago,


and you laugh your father's laugh. 

How many people are with us

in this house?


For dessert we have wide smiles

on the porch swing—half slices

of watermelon sprinkled with salt. 


Between bites, we try to see

who can spit the seeds

the farthest, watching those


black eyes scatter;

it's hard to tell who’s winning

in what little light remains.



The Company of Bleach and Strangers


At the all night Wash-N-Dry, in the steamed up windows

of Speed Queen dryers, I watch the reflection of a woman

as she folds her clothes and I count quarters. 


She snaps an oxford in the scented air like a flag

and it falls to the table where her hands lead each button

to its hole, and she folds the shirt into a perfect rectangle. 


The TV in the corner goes on with more reports of war,

but the woman just grabs another shirt and begins again.

I watch her smooth one sleeve, then the next, bending


them back, pressing them flat.  She lays the finished shirt

on top of the first as the anchor relays the days of combat,

the number of dead; and we are not surprised


or shocked or anything but business.  Then I see her

kiss the palm of her hand and lay it on the collar of a shirt

that belongs to someone she must love.


What we have done to one another should keep us

all awake.  Indeed, here we are in the middle of the night

doing wash, but suddenly there is a way,


even under these fluorescent lights and in the company

of bleach and strangers, to make each room an altar,

every task a ritual, a way to speak a prayer with hands,


to fold a shirt until it becomes a note for a beloved. 

These simple acts are the best of us—let us be thankful

for them and the work our hands can do. 



Debbie Lim

Meditation on a Whale’s Ear Bone                                                 


Somewhere in this resounding bone

an ocean’s held: the boundless geography


of currents and love. Against this lived

knuckle of thought, the fluid epic of its loss,


up rose a mutinous squid: a many-armed

darkness. Cold’s flensing knife was a steady


stroke down your long side. How to imagine

the abyss through which you moved:


a sonic chamber alive with squeaks

and booms, soft whistles, the tender clink


of anchor chain, transmission loops,

a slow dissolve of ice. Shipwrecked


on an ocean liner’s steady-throated thrum,

you were found on sand: collapsing


under your own weight. But this won’t be

what your dying synapses recall


on an outrunning tide as you lie washed

by bucketfuls of moonlight. It will be


the deliberate and barnacled travelling

up stratified layers of cold-crusted water,


through deep columns of krill

and algae bloom, into those glowing fields


of phosphorescence until you enter

the blue’s warm hold —


that soundless rupture.



Bodies of Pompeii


It is not the delicate detail, for the cast is too crude

for that: this girl’s face obliterated by weeping plaster,


a man’s extremities reduced to rounded stumps. It is

the large arrested gesture that tells these bodies, saying:


So this is the shape of death. Familiar lovers fastened 

on a stone bed (whereas life might have ripped them apart),


a dog’s high-pitched contortion, an entire family sleeping,

the baby rolled absently from its mother.


Unburied, they weigh more than bone ever could.

They have shaken off the ash and refuse to rest. So many


stopped limbs. Mouth holes, eye holes, a balled fist.

But in the end this is what halts you: how a young woman sits


with her knees drawn up to her chest, hands covering eyes,

how a child’s body folds, alone at the final moment —


and a man rises from his bed, as if waking for the first time.



How to Read Sapphires                                                                                


Avoid windows, those blank places

light falls through.


Tilt its tiny axis:

watch where fire travels

or disappears.


Bring it into natural light.     


See inclusions as scratches

on a cornea. Decide if you can live

with those birthmarks.


Become versed in blues:

cornflower, royal, inky and Ceylon.


Then abandon yourself

to the myriad

shades with no name.


But don’t confuse darkness with depth.


Unlike diamonds,

clarity isn’t everything.

Nor will any index or scale help you:


this is an exercise

in self-trust, a match

of heart and eye.                                      


So when faced with row

upon row of blue stones


let the slow fingertips  

of your eyes

travel over their loose braille.           


Take your time in choosing.


And if all this

is too much, remember one rule:

gaze in, not at.


Go deep into the cathedral.


And when you think

you have found

the stone you can live with


pick it up

with the instrument


like a small silver spider

crouched at its end —     


look into that rapturous eye.



Nina Lindsay



Whatever became of the wooden bowl

I’d use to gather herbs from the garden?

It was light


and always to hand

and its shape held the cuttings in, but loosely

like a plate, so that—


working in the kitchen—

I could take out just the sprig I wanted.

It was always to hand,


and then it wasn’t.

Like the bus line that changed.

Like the tree that came down.


Like the linen blouse perfect for every occasion

until the fuchsia branch caught

in its shoulder, and it was ruined.


I’d kept it for years, meaning

to make a copy

and now I can’t find it anywhere.


I am so lucky

to have you, still,

and to be able to fall in love with things so easily.



This morning


This morning I blew up the coffee grinder.

It was our anniversary

and I was to attend a late-morning meeting close

to home, but far

enough from work, there was no sense to go in first.

And rather than water

the garden, which badly needed watering, but which could just as well

wait for evening,

I asked if you’d like another cup of coffee, and you said

“only if you’ll have one too”


which was the whole point of my asking

so I filled the kettle, and yanked on the coffee grinder

which was my grandfather’s—excellent motor and snug-fitting lid

and cord so doubled-back on itself it really needed to be unwound

but I was anxious to get moving on this cup of coffee and to climb up into your lap

with a bite of last night’s flaky pastry smothered in half-jammed tangy plum—

so I gave it a good yank—


and it separated from its cord, showering like a sunflower exploding into bloom

     and you cried out

     and I said “It’s ok”—thinking your concern was over the potential for fire,

and then “I’m ok, I’m ok”

and you came to hold me

     and you removed the live cord

          and you reset the fuse

               and you assured me that the grinder could be fixed.


So I got out

the secondary grinder,

the one I use for almonds.


And while the coffee dripped

we emptied the dishwasher

together, and it went so quickly


that way, with two of us,

as if the complexity of our thing-laden lives

really took up no space at all,


as if eleven years might just as easily be described by any single moment.





I don’t believe in above and below.

Only the sparrow call and chicken cluck

that move like curtains in the fog

and light of morning. The hearth and the bread,

the racket and the laughter. Frustration,

change, diligence, and desire.

I treasure the dimensionless lack of light,

the cold and the wet, the stone and the black.

Kisses, silence, endlessness,

satisfaction. And the birdcall, and the light

that returns to everyone, and from all directions.



Éireann Lorsung

England, or the continent I had in mind when I came here


for Caroline


Every bird is a sister of mine—can you believe

I never saw horses running

            before I came to this island,

and nothing but their own good sense keeps them

from falling into the ocean?

                        At the edge of your country

     along traintracks that run from Devon

to Cornwall, someone

      set up a howl and it’s been going

            longer than we remember,

                        or our mothers

remember, or their mothers.

Where else could a woman turn

into flowering rosebush? All

so peripheral, the crooked edges maps show—

     the limit is sensate here

            where I can never travel all night

and the next day—

                        what brings me is what bound you,

a piece of cloth in tatting thread and colors

I found here—loosestrife, sorrel, the guelder rose,

wood anemone—a tapestry

                        barring girlhood to one

field, long stripe of a neighbor’s plow turning

land just over the woven branches: earth

to earth.

      The sandwich cart rattles by, you stack

cups on a tray. Meanwhile, unobstrusively, the air

diffuses particles, the sky is pinked.


This earth. This shining in the sea.



With you


It sweetens everything.


This small movement: fingertips from chord to chord. 

How his head ducks when he moves to kiss your neck.


Porte Saint-Ouen, the first heady rush of cars, grey lifting off the city.


If you have never been to Paris, go there

            in November, wear a heavy scarf printed with shibori, wear

            an overcoat.

                        Walk along the Seine, past booksellers, souvenir

                        shops, women wearing red coats, and Notre Dame.


The RER through Saint-Denis.


Sitting across from him you will want to touch him.

            You will hold your own hands back from touching him.


Leaves from plane trees yellow in the gutter. 

In Montmartre, the same leaves yellow against sky.


Hand on the small of your back, through your jacket, subtle, burning.

                Shape of the guitar case.

            These things, you love them because you know what is inside.



Aquí te pinte


...wrote the painter


Boy with a body like birds and umbrellas, full of unfurling,

I want to paint on the walls and have the paintings come alive for you.


What a cheerful body you have. That's why I imagine rhesus monkeys

and bougainvillea and trumpet flowers and fig trees


growing everywhere around you, plant and paint and chalk. Yellow

walls and pink walls, a courtyard, an elderly


chair with gold velvet cushions rubbing away

like the fur around a dog's muzzle when she gets old. Overhanging


boughs from untrimmed yew. Your skin is the morning and it stretches

all over you, not one bone breaking through—all


uncaged and springing from. A blue house with white rafters.

A bridge between what was always wild and what will so become.


A wreath of gardenias and lilies, red roses, peonies.

A wreath of thorns and hummingbirds and models of my hands.



Angie Mazakis



Because I imagined


there was a night under the stars


when I became distrustful

of gravity.

And felt myself ready


to move off by some force,

foreign and luring,

toward the uncontained universe.


I’m so sorry Tia,

about your brother.

Maybe he also imagined


possibility. Jumping

in the shallow

pond. I can see myself,


considering the dive,

water cooling my

ankles, so passive and lenient


that it would just follow me

beyond itself,

make an opening in


the ground for me.



Gary McDowell



I hear that tap dancers have a move

called the buffalo.  It sounds exactly

as it sounds: buff-a-lo: soft-toed shoes

over tiny pebbles of sand, the drag

and punch, the smooth scratch

like an old record heard through old

speakers until the sand’s spread too thin

and the music stops sounding old

and starts sounding too old.

What I don’t know: where it says that dance

steps must have names reflective

of their movements.  But, like a live shell

leaving a launch-tube on the Fourth of July—

wait, it’s not like that at all.  It’s something

harder to pin down, maybe fireworks

on a November evening that linger in the cold air,

the colors that stick to the stars like snow on the lens

of your camera, the tiny crystals dancing

as they melt to the warmth of your breath.



Selfish Couplets


If we keep feeding the gods,

they’ll leave us to our sentiments,


or to some other irony: I’ve lusted,

coveted, drawn a map of my childhood.


What I missed: the route to school,

the stones we’d roll down the hill


behind the graveyard where an unnamed

person lay buried, always deer antlers


next to the headstone, bleached, white

like lightning on a moonless night,


heat lightning over a lake, and the lake

swallows it, and we’re back again


to what I missed: there was once,

there is no more.  How we tell a story,


how we fold laundry, yell to each other

of our secular throats, our words without irony.



On the Deck there's a Still Summer Evening


There’s something about sitting on the deck at twilight:

the mosquitoes,

                        just visible in the half-shadows,

buzz more clearly, their pitch slightly lower now

that the drummed moon creeps above the tree-line.


I want to take up archery, hunt like my red-blooded

ancestors, or just feel

                                 the tension in my fingers as I pull

back, take aim, and let the arrow go to the bats


hanging on the power lines, tucked against the fir trees,

their black, their peared bodies, their silence.



Clair McQuerry 

Spring in Holy Cross Cemetery


When you remember this April,

will it be with rain—light

on our hair, the way cut grass sticks

and folds into the cuffs of our jeans? 

We hardly talk about the past,

but when we do, it seems our memories

have taken the same shape.


I haven’t seen you since Christmas.  We meet

at this small, brass plate and wonder

at the mechanics of it, how so many dead

could fit into a single span of earth.  New immigrants

with money enough for one name

on a marker, the others remembered

only on paper—a torn list of names and dates

unearthed from the gatehouse files. 


We come here to know family we’ve only

heard about, our first time in Brooklyn,

but I wonder if you also inhabited

this city the way I did, through grandmother’s

stories, how I sat on the stoop

of that brownstone, watching the great aunts as

girls come up the twilight street

pale as angels in their summer dresses.


You are my brother, and when people ask

if we are close, I don’t know how

to answer.  I can’t name your greatest

fears.  I don’t know if you’ve ever

been in love.  But we share this small

revelation of our past.


We have nothing to leave here.

We read the names of our ancestors

aloudAgnes Henry, James Brennan

a feeble benediction, and turn,

both, I think, noticing the way wet earth gives

beneath our shoes, the way when you go,

you carry some of it with you.





They are electric

in Iglesia San Dominique. 

Sear of filament in glass:

tiny coal, a forty-watt

star.  None of your cathedral

glitter, clutter of light

on the paving, this grid

of switches, little

circuit timed to twenty-nine

minutes and after, nothing

whiskered with soot.  No remnant

but the afterburn, blue

on the dark globes

of your eyelids.  Some

things in life are not meant

for such precision—The snug

dovetail of your joined hands.

The bent maple outside

my window, aflame

with leaf, its sheath

of frost.  Flickered

approximation of star: that dark

voice, and our reciprocal

lights. Trace elements

in smoke, fine blue

strands that rise, streak

the marbled mouth of a saint.



Letter from Phoenix


Everywhere people are making love— 

the upstairs neighbors whose bedsprings wake me.


The girl next door with the fat, Italian boyfriend

whose motorcycle does 90 in the desert.


The couple with an open window, late fall

when the days, perversely, keep warm. 


I fish you up from the nothing of cyberspace,

unlocated place. 


Smoke off distant brush fires or dust

that rises some nights to gauze


the light from streetlamps

parody the fog we’d walk in.


East of the city the desert’s black teeth

break on the sky.  Arroyos wanting.       


I could get lost there, when no one knows

how far, which direction I’ve gone. 


I’m running to meet you

in England, where rain makes its lace on us.


Your hand fits in my pocket,

exquisite object, those finely wrought bones.


You were married last August.

(An ocean at your back,


I imagine.) 

Gardenia, Ophelia’s white slippers.  Someone


who won’t, I’m certain, assert

herself     against you.


See, I stand outside your life

without touching, the woman beyond a lit window. 


Star cluster, highway, web.

We speak in metaphor until the metaphor


disappears.  In the desert

light is a knife.


A horse’s gallop becomes wings: flock of quail

thrumming out of the ocotillo’s tangle.


When it rains, the creosote

is the sweetness of all things beyond reach. 



Susan Miller

The field before Secaucus


is a marsh, really: a shivering array

of grasses edged by a rivulet,

green in summer, iced over in winter.

Just past it, the shadowy forms

of defunct factories

smudge the horizon, their windows

shattered, or warped

as Roman glass.  But it’s the grass

this morning that arrests:

every dark tuft of seed

at the crown of a reed

silent as it switches in the wind.

In the black and wheat-colored mesh

the wind creates swirls like

moire, the golden stalks crossing

and retreating over

the mud of the marsh floor.

Every head bows toward its neighbor,

which bows toward the next, and for once

the train pauses just beside

this bank of rushes so I can watch

the path the wind takes

across its face.



Christopher Nelson



Your girlfriend wears her summer

dress and the music

is loud and you don’t care about the bruises

because this is being alive.


The chrysanthemums you picked are

one full day from collapse.

When she brings her mouth to yours

yes and yes and yes.


Because this is happiness

there is no evening


and in Father’s car


the alternator doesn’t fail

and the miles you would have had to walk

aren’t dark and fraught

with what you hope are birds.




It was then,

before business, housework, the catching of trains.


You wore the tinfoil crown, and uncertainty and light

conspired in joy.


This is not

a preamble for regret.


You take the small box from the nook

and blow off the dust.


Inside is the dime-store ring that the boy bought for you and the little plastic bubble that has held it all those years. Without thinking, you throw it away, the ring, the box, the dream, the whole thing called time—refused with the banana peels that cover the junk mail and the picture of the missing girl who looks like a million girls. You want the poem to end. You want the insight or the crush because what you have isn’t wholly here, and the names you give to it are approximate only. But the poem continues, asking Why trash what you love? And you can’t imagine


that there won’t always be another



and won’t the next one be about



at night

at the curbside, opening garbage bags


beneath a streetlamp, just you

and the circling moths?



Möbius Strip


Behind the curtains,

a world. Behind the breast-

bone, a clock carefully wired.


I only wanted to be

perfect. Is that transgression



No, I also wanted you

in the light of the window seat

wearing the robe that falls



You who asked why I believe

I can turn from love and not be destroyed.


You who said my eyes—

it was autumn and is it not

possible to return?


Behind the shoulder blade,

a lung. Behind identity, a shard

of God.



Rebecca Parson

Burning Season


These mountains are not mine.

Here even the dirt is red

and its bleached grass gleams.

You'd burn like this earth.

I drive across the shadow of a hawk.

Two sun-dazed cows gaze at me,

and I’m a cold pulse blinked

from eye to brain. Lines bloat like veins

on the surface of the hills,

and weeds unloose themselves from roots.

The sun takes my skin, the wind my lips,

and I take this road past the dam ahead.

This is proof of me, after you.



Poem For My Sister


Grackles with hacking voices section

the street from the sky, like our bunk bed's

hotly defended jurisdictions.


Electric birds sing an intermittent song,

a crosswalk guide for the blind.  On repeat,  

your first word was my name.  


A bird, a kind I've never seen, looks at me. 

In memory, my first, I stand beside a white bed:

there you are. 



Graveyard Calisthenics


Twelve renegade headstones

have been pushed by the wind

from their bases. These are their hips,

and the tombstones, their torsos.

The formerly elegant dead

emerge from forgotten plots

with legs still beneath the ground,

as if they were granite dancers stretching down

and groping for their toes.



Joanna Pearson


These poems are not available for posting.



Melissa Range

To a Swallowtail


Nectar-puller, straw-tongue,

all over your supper

as if it were your mate—


let’s double-date

with twin ditch-sprigs

of Queen Anne’s Lace,


or you can come over;

I’ve got yellow daisy,

fuzzy mum, a-fizz


in a jar on the sill,

damsel fractals

with their buds blowsed out,


frazzled and juiced,

waiting for me to make

the move I never make


because my proboscis

only sips from books,

looking up “nectar”


(from the Greek

for “overcoming death”)

instead of tasting it.


Tiger, teacher, eater

of Eros, press me

in an encyclopedia


of thirsting ferns and leaves,

or pin me to a cocoon-wall

as if with an arrow


the next time I scrabble

for a word for “drink”

instead of drinking,


or lick a page-flipping thumb

instead of a body’s

blossoming sugars.


Guide me through the nets

and myths of love

until like you I’m frowzed


with pollened splendor—

a flower vandal,

Psyche, a joy-vendor.



In Praise of My Patella


All praise to you, tricky cap, off the track

with a reckless bend and a crooked crack—


cup of ligaments a-spill, how unrecked

your work until the pop and shift which checked


your traverse and exposed your cartilage;

now you’re stiff, caged, my weak thighs’ hostage,


sidelined while others genuflect and kick.

But you still labor, though you grate and click,


though you balk on uphill walks, the staircase schlep,

though you crick my lumbar loose with every step.


All those knock-kneed years spent tripping over curbs—

if not you, who absorbed the pavement’s barbs?


And if you refuse to bow, who taught you that—

inflexible, not bending for squat?


My sesamoid, I know you’re fossilizing, late

to the ossuary. Only bear my weight


stooping to my grave, and I relinquish

you—prickling linchpin, shallow dish.


My love for you’s marked on a doctor’s chart.

You’re the one hinge as disjointed as my heart.



Evangelion (1)


St. Luke the bull, bless my Taurean sweetie

who’s barely cracked a Bible, whose love

for owl and grackle, butterbeans and muscle car’s


incarnate, unproselytized, whose love

of my baptized page-white flesh

gasps and gospels, plunders


me like the words of Jesus—

behold he comes a thief in the night,

he sunders my tongue into a thousand


angels with a thousand thousand errands.


Greek ox, bullhorn, author of a doctored story,

tell my sugar of the bullish savior

dwelling in his blood and in his touch, O


put him out to pasture

a place where no news is good

or ill, no pews are empty—where no pews


exist to bench his joy, no messenger

to annunciate this thing not news

but newly enfleshed ever, magnificat.



Rachel Richardson

Little Exercise


         after Elizabeth Bishop


Think of the sun nesting between hills

like a garter snake looking for a groove to curl into

at the edge of the road.


Eucalyptus shuffle their long leaves toward the heat

in tall families swaying,

rattling their dry pods.


And a hawk may dip its head,

unfold its muscled wings, make a slow survey

as the surrounding hillside gleams.


Below, our city streets and oak trees,

once fixed in lines, upturn themselves

in armfuls of dark gemstones.


Morning: the thoroughfare and its broken meters

with pansies where had been coins

are basking in the light, the smell of baking bread.


The fog burns away

in thinning, vaporous tendrils,

reclaimed again by the sea.


Someone is sleeping at the threshold of the library

downtown, or on a bench at the park;

think of him waking slowly, the sun brushing his leg.





Little unbegun, half-loaf rising,

sparrow northward and kicker south.

Lentil to grapefruit, you sleep-step sidewise,

turnover, pop-up, tongue in the mouth.





You, tenebrous. You’re clustered. One cell to another

you meet and divide. Nothing yet here to speak of,

the walls resounding—

                         as when we moved into

the new house: months of rearranging furniture.

And nights in winter, we heard the joints

crack like they would give; by morning,

a new seam coursed the paint, a doorframe

had opened its stitching. We busied

ourselves hemming curtains, nailing hooks.

Stacking plates and washing plates and stacking plates.

This is how it happens: patterns.

                                     One day

you’re breathing. One day all the books are on shelves

and we can pull them down by instinct. Rugs are laid out.

The walls quiet, warmed. It’s spring and surprising

shoots present themselves around the oak tree. Meanwhile

you, beating. You quiet, in draft form. You’re working.

Oh, we see some morning: daffodils.



Michael Rutherglen

Santa Maria del Fiore


Masters dreamt there into the stillness over

thriving roads their domes, as into the altar-

stone their chiselings. Past the scaffolds rising,

acres ground to pigment, to paint for palms turned

outward, haloes and wall-eyed spirits scaling

heaven—how surely the flocks would

still for it: their sight upsiphoned, their heads dipped

backwards into prayer, past tenet and toil,

pestled essence of the bestial field in bloom.


Masters offer little now to the assembled

silence: marbled regard, sepulchral Latin.

Therefore we reap this nascent evensong:

let artifice give answer, and grace be bright

in the hued and hewn, the things of their hands.



The Roman Snow


Perhaps throughout the absence of bells

into the river’s one inflection. Beyond blinds

drawn against the day, it loosens down,

in white flakes and in black, in yes and no.

Asleep, one might conceive of sounds its settling makes,

the echoes in bright silences

through which its benedictions drift like ash

out of summer’s noiseless burning. One knows

the vacant heights the towers keep, the streets

that arc into the river’s bends—and so?

One goes, a ringing in the ears receding,

down throughout the afternoon arcades

diffusing downward into ruins after.



In Praise of Artifice

This poem will be posted when the author provides it.



Emily Louise Smith

Fields, Drifting Apart


after C.D. Wright


One was always kicking a can

Or stepping on the hem of the other’s shadow

The pinker the sky the closer the weather

A swallowtail untied its apron

A baler lay on its elbows

One was falling in love while the other was leaving for art school

If one followed the fireworks and the flowering trees

If one fed him peaches from the bowl of her hips

Already one was seeing a girl in the next town

Or depositing secrets in a horse’s cupped ear

One waded into loneliness when the other filled it up

Even as one followed a new lover cross-country

The other was remembering it

Wetting the stamp of a see rock city sign

Upon returning one would feel lighter the other empty

One had found where the grass is greener

The other let her shirt fall open to the stars

Fireflies climbed like embers out of the valley

Trucks hauled the twilight somewhere else



One Day My Grief Up And Quit


I broke my heart across a meadow, a finch’s golden bib,

across the back of a mule and a damson tree. I waited


for it to split its seam, rain from a thunderous clap,

stars to crumble from the sky. I chucked it like a crabapple


against the barn. Heart, you no good son of a bitch.

Still, it would not detonate, would not flower.


I left it beneath the crunch of car tires, a wing

of dog-gnawed hide. I tried to impale it on a barb.


I was stalled, stumped, way past aching. My heart

was a fist, a pit, a thistle. I knelt in the tall grass


and was not swayed. I couldn’t drape my sorrow

over some new moon just to remember


its former roundness. Strew it across a wall like tack.

This field would not be hitched. I couldn’t lie down


in her chirp and whinny and come up weeping

like honeysuckle over a fence. All this time


and the barn hadn’t budged. Which is to say collapse

is imperceptible, so often corseted in sumac.



Bruce Snider 

Notes on the Harvest


Whitley County, Indiana


Everything I’ve lost, this is where I’ll find it,

            horse flies on manure, combines


stuttering wheat, every name that’s spoken

            my own.  I watch for green grubs,


parsley worms, sickles in the wheat, 

            my pining heart’s drift toward the grave


of Great Aunt Honey, who draws the magnolia’s

            roots toward her, bone to wood, her blood


humming in my veins.  So many

            headstones with names I can’t remember,


moss sealing cracks in the dates. 

            From the sky’s blue simmer, darkness


startles a single glossy crow.  It rises

            like a syllable over fields between Peabody


and Tunker, Dunfee and Laud, the Eel River’s

            slant toward the neighbor’s land, speechless


wax combs where bees shimmer,

            tomatoes sweetening near the patch


where years ago I tripped on a rake, its scar

            a mark of plenty.  Now comes the urge


of damp soil:  ferment, thorn, and hay.

            August moves downwind, goldenrod


tossing pollen in a pale froth, leaning

            at the fence break, just giving it away.





Today, I’m taking my father

for more tests, his eyes


failing even as we walk

out into the knee deep drifts.


Like his father before,

he takes two shovels from their hooks,


the particles of his hands

sewn somewhere in mine,


so much of him

silent in me as we walk


the bright hemorrhage of white. 

He starts at one end,   


I start the other, each scoop

unmaking the snow, which has taken


over porches, stoops, skeletal trees

hedging the road.  Soon,


he won’t be able to make out the handle

he’s gripping. We don’t speak,


piling the crude heaps,

first him, then me, the black


grammar of railroad ties

announcing the perimeter. 


The weatherman calls for more—

seven inches by nightfall—


but the old Chevy rattles

as I rev the engine,


my father leaning to scrape

the windshield clear of ice   


until he’s certain I can see.



To Interstate 70


Wheat fields, white lines, everything

            blurs – Hazelwood, Spring Grove, Clover


Dale fractured in the VW’s headlights.

           Though the exit ramp promises


escape, the solid yellow line resists

            the crossing over. Cornfields interrupt


the hard beauty of the gas pumps,

            the gleaming Conocos of the heart-


land rising where road kill opens

            to reveal what shines. Semis awaken


the muddied green, lumber hauled

            from Terre Haute—walnut, black oak,


butternut and ash—the whole state

            tied to the wheel in the vague landscape


of travel:  a man in a red truck, a woman’s

            radio blaring, so many strangers passing


in separate zones, even the lonely

            going nowhere, and arriving home.



Sarah Sousa

Traveling North on Amtrak after Dark


Miles at high speed to make up

for that delay at Newark. In the black

window my own watery

reflection, passengers passing time.

Another train appears inches away,

keeping pace; the same

windows dimly lit like distant candles. Faces

in their dark pools, serious in transit.

There’s just time to register the succession

of mute strangers.

Like friends you never meet

Tobias says.

A loss not keenly felt, I think.

And then, as if to prove me wrong,

in the next window a man

smiles and waves and is gone.



The Field, The Field


Sunk to its knees in the field

broken-backed, past raiding;

the chicken coop contains the field.


What is it that loves disorder?

That leads the eye to crave broken

window, caved roof, and fulfills that desire?


I’ll travel far and bring a camera

to see a place inhabited by its ghosts.

I’ll bring a camera to see


the crooked door half-painted

algae green with kick marks

for its lower panels.


Here, even the ghosts have given up,

taken the hinges and the thresholds;

the living’s contrived silences


necessitating doors. A piece

of wire fence nailed seventy years

to a hole keeps nothing out


and nothing in. So they become

one: the wire, the gaping;

the field, the field.



Jennifer K. Sweeney

Barn Owls


Equinox. Apples.

Walnuts dropping from the trees.


A wheel loosens from a cart

and veers down a dirt road.


In the woody rafters,

two barn owls


tilt their ears

to the heartbeats


of mice scurrying the hay bales,

two faces brushed white


with sleep.

A windfall of forms


sharpens against the void.

Fluted sea of cornstalks,


evening, back-lit in a ground fog.

The gourds blink silent and human.


And you, size of whelk

or plum,


in my body’s slumber,

envelop the first darkness.



Forty Weeks


It was your due date and a little

knot of fire tugged at my psyche.

A half-life of Mondays have dragged

their heels against the landscape, gone:

trash days, trudge days, without-any-moon-days,

that terrible not-long-ago day

when we lost your grandfather.

In school, Monday was a crisp spelling list,

the words arbitrary, sentenced

to their numbered plots in cursive script.

Glacier           Insatiable       Stationary

I tried to cull a meaning from them,

string of lost objects that would set

a raggedy anthem for another week,

some sonic focal point

as the dust motes caught shafts of light.

Hickory         Saint     Kestrel:

now go, fashion a mountain.

I don’t blame you choosing a different entry

although in your astronomy

the conventions of day and night

have not yet been torn in half.

You have your own dark map.

No need to net a fish and call it fish.

Come gold when the tide is going.

We will meet you at the opening gate of any hour

with our unimaginable faces

and all the carefully cleared space for sound,

our      Djembe              Larvae      Rockabelly       Swoon.



The Nightbird’s Apprentice


Douse the lampwick’s last light,

flood the room with a monsoon

of static, tiny grief-birds


whistling from the attic—

(you do not) go down easy

with your newly discovered hands


wringing fits of air.

There, the first gate cries in return,

its overvining shadows throw a landscape


against the wall,

clench and release, your body

one muscle held against the night.


The second gate is a plane of sound:

cicadas scissor the grass

rainwater drips into bottles and you


buck the dark, darkling,

yodel your oval wind, fall

upward as we open the third gate


suspended in catalpa trees, please

follow we promise no death

this daily lying down a human thing.


We will row you, lotus you

tra-la and river you

while the one-handed clock


tocks half-truths.

Come, grow vague with us,

fidget the sky.



Sarah Sweeney

Feeding Time


It’s suppertime:

my mother works


the stove, and I am a child,



I will not grow

to be as tall as her:


an inch or so less.

I won't cook like her either—

how she draws sauce

from nothing,

a little flour, milk,

dash of salt, pepper,


then spoons it onto our meat.

She lets me lick the beater, coated


with mashed potatoes.

After dinner, we take a stale loaf


into the yard, crumble

it between us.


If she is unhappy,

I’m too young to know it—


what men and time

have sapped her of.


If she is tired,

her hands full


with children and chores,

I refuse to see it,


her hair glowing

in porch light,


tossing bread

across the lawn,


the birds all swarming

around her.



Visiting the Gravesite


You would hardly recognize the woman’s face,

the long hair I’ve since stopped dyeing

and the perfume of New England behind me.


Last we met spring was on its way

and you could not speak. I had to imagine your voice

after you died, wondering what you might tell me.


I had to cull you from dreams, search you

in symbols: every rustling leaf on windless days,

each butterfly. I was foolish


but could you blame me? I had so many questions

and you were not coming back. Friends asked

if I felt you, like a current of creek water


or coat button. Nothing of you remained—

only the years, a gulf widening where the fog

from your Marlboros vanished.


Once a year on my trip home I walk

these hills to your headstone.

Just some ashes, an engraved name


obscured by wild chive, dandelions burning

with sun. None of you is here,

but this is where you are. Remember me


each time I bend to this earth, returning

to smooth the cool grasses,

growing older and older until


I am nothing and a part of you again.



You Must Admit


Even now, when lightning slashes through morning,

you will remember girlhood.

Your parents were still sleeping in the hours you woke,

a southern storm pouring over the house when you’d creep

to the back porch in some big, battered shirt of your father’s

to inhale deeply the scent of the world.

How else could you describe that lit dawn

but electric? It might’ve been the first time you felt alive,

a girl, dreaming her life like the faraway flashes of a moving storm.

Don’t you remember how everything smelled after rain?

Edging the perimeter of the yard, fingering those drenched begonias,

the beauty of a neighborhood not yet risen, the silence

of discovery when the wet grass slid through your toes?

You’d do anything to touch that again

on some morning when the rain curls you into hibernating.

You were a girl and now the body rejects that.

You know too well the soaked clothes when the umbrella breaks,

when you heave groceries uphill, when you run backwards

and backwards until breathless. The yard slags,

your parents are dead. And those moments of magic

happen less and less, but sometimes, even you must admit,

you are struck by the cursive of birds,

a rogue wave that pushes saltwater up your nose,

or the breath you take emerging again and again

each morning, opening the door to the world

and remembering those escapes when no one was looking,

when the backyard seemed immeasurable, and the sky, infinite.



Matthew Thorburn

“A Field of Dry Grass”




Hard to imagine Bashō

died here in a rented room above a flower shop

in 1694, as I pause today

on Dōtonbori Street, shoppers brushing past

on either side, to gaze

at the giant red mechanical crab

stretching its legs over the door

of the Kani Doraku seafood

restaurant, its eye stalks rotating in a breeze

too high for me to feel. No more

kabuki, no more bunraku.

Now everyone comes here


to eat. Two teenage girls pour

batter thick with ginger and purple

chunks of octopus

into sizzling takoyaki griddles

in an open-air café. And up

and down the street I’m distracted again

and again by ramen, udon,

okonomyaki, yakitori. Spiny fish

and green eels swim

in blue-lit tanks. Everything’s alive


or just was, is for sale, can be eaten.

“That’s not news,” the fishmonger

laughs. “Everything depends which end

of the knife you’re on.”

Once, an old story goes, a monarch—

or perhaps he was a composer?—

lay fading in an upstairs bedroom.

He was so beloved, so missed

and longed-for already

that the townspeople scattered hay

in the cobbled street beneath his windows     


to muffle the clanking shoes of horses

passing by. Falling sick on a journey, my dream

goes wandering, Bashō’s last poem goes,

over a field of dry grass. The thing about

last words, a biographer

said, is being able to get them out


in that last breath

as you squeeze the hand

of a nurse or student crouched

beside the bed. Someone

held his hand, I hope, as someone else

reached for the brush and ink

kept on the table to take down

that poem and save it


for us, whomever we might be.

I like to think the shopkeeper

brought up some flowers to comfort him,

a blur of pink and orange

in a raku vase (a tea bowl, actually,

but the closest thing to hand),

or perhaps a gnarled bonsai

older already than he would ever be.

But no one thought

to write this part down. If I had to


guess, I think he would

have preferred to see once more

the broad green leaves

of the wild ginger that sprang up—

he had looked for the purple

urn-shaped flowers each spring—

along the narrow road

he still followed through his sleep.





Weird magic, it seems now, a spell to believe

in the candles crossed like swords

before your neck for the Feast of St. Blaise


God preserve you, the priest intoned again

and again. We stood in line,

the whole school, as the white tapers


were pressed against each neck to ward off

sore throats, a lost voice, something

worse. Now, that life’s like an old black coat


I’ve unbuttoned and hung in the closet

and won’t ever wear again, though

I can’t quite give it away. I can still feel


my way back to the guilty thrill as I fingered

the crucifix on that worn rosary,

the thick cross with a little door on the back


closed tight with an even littler screw.

It held a relic, someone said—I remember that

hushed voice—a few specks of bone


from the shoulder or ankle of a minor saint,

something I had to see, those gray flecks

smaller than rice grains I stared at


in queasy wonder, tilting the cross

so they’d catch the light—a little, just a little

more—till they slipped out and blew away.





- Reykjevik 


That’s a hot dog with fried onions

(the kind that come in a can) and stripes

of brown mustard and mayo. We each

ate one standing outside the metal shack

down by the harbor. It’d become a tourist site—

seriously, a green bus pulled up; and after all

we were there, weren’t we?—

after Bill Clinton stopped by for a pyls

and a Coke a few years back.

They have his picture up over the register.

He must have done what we did—

turned around slowly till the wind

blew at his back and watched the whale-watchers

straggling back in off the boat, gray-faced

in their yellow and blue slickers,

glanced past them to the Esso station—

odd how it’s the best place to get your hands on

cups of yogurty skyr, the ones with the smart

folding spoons tucked under the lids—

and wondered why are gas stations

also often restaurants here, the only lights on

in the smaller towns, and felt secretly happy

about this country’s love of burgers and dogs,

pizza, fries dipped in remoulade, even if

a hot dog sets you back seven bucks (he wouldn’t

have cared, or even known) because

everything’s shipped in and trucked around,

until the wind turns around again

so you do too, and wolf down your last two bites.



Mark Wagenaar

Gospel of Wild Grapes & Empty Rooms


Sundown stillness, an absence of wingsound

                                            like Mingus out of earshot.

It’s happened. The world freezes—

                                    arcs of translucent water


on front lawns, cars stopped on the roads,

a motionless hawk

                    a tenth of a mile above the soybean field—


until my hand brushes the wild grapes on the fence,

three days old, old as the moon.


The plum-stained sidewalk faintly viridescent,

                                    the pits a ruin as much as Italica.

If the plums’ disappearance is a country, like sleep,

their taste is a country where only the dead sleep.


Then the moth’s eyes of the dew open,

the radiant underhang lining wire fences,


radiant as the memory of my father welding, a silhouette

hunched over a blue flame,

                            body auraed by blue sparks.


Now, with night approaching, new-foaled & so near,

                                                    a glimpse of its mane

in the east, I’ve neglected to ask when that was.


How dear you are to me, I should have said, how strange

that I can remember your whiskery kiss.


When Dante plucked a reed from the island of reeds

the same one grew back in its place.


When we lose a memory, we look for a while

         into the distance,

radio towers flashing above the dusk-blued horizon line...


we hear doors closing, cars starting up, a hawk calling

                                  beyond whatever we’re looking at.


We walk into an empty room, & forget why we came in.



Portrait of the Artist with Dante


Outside the window that only gives to the east wind,

                                         last sunfall splayed on the sill,

you’re shaking out birdseed onto the new snow,

looking up at the sky above Florence,

              rosettes & riblines pressed into the clouds,


wing- & thumbprints amidst the phosphorescent patches

of plane lights in the cloud cover,

                               as one by one they ascend

& coalesce into the radiance.


What space did your body leave behind that night

as you rose, what shade of blue

                                   did you leave in the air?


Chagall, I think, the blue of Chagall,

                                     blue of his dreamers flying

above the towns they were born in,

the blue in the lips of a drowned man


who looks like he’s been hung on a line to dry,

waving for the rest of his death,

                                    hair washed in a marlin’s wake.


Here a salt lake would surround the island of reeds.

I’ve yet to see it, & still dream of a reed 

that will grow back as soon as it’s plucked,

                                      giù colà dove la batte l’onda’,

where the water laps the shore.

Are you still waiting, as I am, for a word to be spoken

over your life, for the blessing

                                 of a hand’s windtouch on your head?

Do you linger, near to the dusk as you can get,

because you hope to rise again, to watch it disappear

                                                   beneath you,

to dissolve in the silver birchlight of a new moon so near

you can feel it pulse in your chest?


Here Aurelius has never spoken, & the salt lake at sunset

                                       begins to shine from within,

as if suffused by a pink bioluminescent sargasso weed...


We’ll go on waiting, watching the sky for a sign

                                                in the wakes of comets,

for bodies & lights disappearing suddenly,

waiting for a wing to touch us

                           before we join the brilliance at last.





Walnuts’ green shells char on the branches.

Shrunken blackberries wither on the vine, the roadside

presto coral of wild sunflowers & black-eyed

Susans hang limp with dust. A drought chanted


into being by the quickening tongues of the canyon fires,

three in the last three days, roaring through scrub pine

& mahogany, fallen brush & deadfall for their kindling.

Everything around us thirsts—that the city was underwater


once is almost impossible to believe, the eastern ridgelines

a shore. Yet look: a contrail above it whitens, the colour

of the wakes our bodies leave on the water,

the seven day drought of moon ending. The distance


between us has disappeared, the white water suddenly

all around us. We share one thirst. Drink with me.



Jessica Young

By the time you have read this far


into the poem, assuming you are

an average person of average health,

your heart will have beat eleven times,

and you will have taken one breath.

By the time you get to the word “cells”

in the next line, thirty million of your

red blood cells will have died, but

by our best estimates, thirty million

more will have been produced.

This requires amino acids.

Pretend, for a moment, each

character in this poem represents one

amino acid.  To make one cell, this poem

would need to last three billion pages.

This would be equivalent to a book

of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” printed,

back to back, over 100 million times.

And inside each amino acid

we can find approximately twenty atoms,

made of, mostly, emptiness—so small

that one billion of them fit in the space

of this I.

It breaks down,

it breaks down.  There is so much

it can be hard to swallow.  But pause, think

of your heart once more, having completed

just under 80 beats by now.  Or your eyes,

having blinked eleven times.

This is knowable beauty, this is

quantifiable splendor.  It says: Come here,

to the page.  When we lace knowledge into

lines, it says: let me quicken your heart-rate.



I am learning Spanish


Excuse me mister, hello, one minute?

I am permanently an American

and I want information.  The language

is hard for me, but I am learning and

my mother is learning smaller.  Please,

where is the street I want?  Where

is here?  On the map, where is this?

I want help, please now, I do not

understand a lot in this minute; but

my mother is handicapped. Please,

for me, one more time.  I want to

understand and I also want the bus.

Where is it, where is my mother, please,

help.  After when I am in the bus, after,

I want a chair.  My mother is an invalid,

I need a chair for my mother.  Please.

No?  No.  Why do you not understand?

Please, then, where is the elevator,

my mother and I, I want to ascend.



Common Question: Does the sun make a noise?


I heard the sun sing.


I was inside, Tuesday, outside

it was raining.  I played the sun song


on my computer, an AIFF file, and heard

nothing.  I tried another version, an AU file.

It started cranking along, silently—What are these


files?  I’ve never even heard of these filetypes.  Who

makes an mp3 of the sun? How do you make—


then a low throbbing coming from


outside, like someone slowly strumming

a guitar, blocks away.  At this point I was


staring out the window, again, the rain.  I hadn’t

heard the sun. But then I looked and saw

the file was still running.  No, it can’t be.


I paused it, my far-off strummer

paused as well.  I played it,


my far-off strummer


played.  The song of the sun.

It was dull, but the sun.  The sun!


How strange that we record such a thing,

such a non-thing, that the sound has breached

the distance.  I can’t stop listening to it.